The European Union has adopted several measures to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic since the outbreak began. On 2 April, European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Bretonaddressed the Internal Market committee (IMCO) to further detail what these measures are and how Member States are collaborating to tackle the crisis.
With the virus spreading to all European countries, Member States have reacted by closing borders and impeding the free movement of medical equipment necessary to combat this crisis. As liberals, we believe that free movement of goods is essential to contain the spread of the virus.
During his intervention, Commissioner Breton thanked healthcare workers and volunteers who are saving lives and stressed that collective responsibility and solidarity is needed to combat this unprecedented threat. “At the core of solidarity, we have the Single Market. In this period of crisis, our single market must come with solutions rather than obstacles,” he said.
“Free movement is essential to overcome the crisis,” Breton emphasized during his intervention and stressed that while the European Commission is monitoring the situation of the Single Market, quick and collective action to remove the potential and existing obstacles is needed from all Member States.
On the free movement of medical equipment, the Commissioner highlighted that Europe is making efforts to ensure that these goods are being produced and that all standards needed for their movement are made free. “Europe should be self-sufficient in the production of goods, and we are on the right path to achieve it,” Breton said.
On the use of data and Internet, the Commission needs to guarantee that all needed infrastructure to facilitate working from home and streaming is guaranteed. We need to look at new services and innovation, and ensure that all networks adapt to this unprecedent situation, Breton summarised.
“This crisis needs to be a catalyser to help us improve what we are doing,” he added.
On the implications on privacy and fundamental rights, Breton stressed that the use of data is essential, but the Commission and Member States need to ensure that the existing GDPR regulation is upheld. Answering to the questions from the parliamentary group leaders, Commissioner Breton stressed that no Member State should be left behind when it comes to adopting measures to face the consequences of the crisis. The right tools must be placed to protect all sectors such as tourism, industry and SMEs.
“We will only accept change in necessity, but change is necessity”, Commissioner Breton ended.