On 9 June, the ALDE Party, in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson, hosted its first thematic Liberal Breakfast focused on a pan-European approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion brought together interested citizens and panellists Johnson & Johnson Vice-President for Government Affairs and Policy of the EMEA Region Zeger Vercouteren and Renew Europe MEPs and frontline health workers Andreas Glück (FDP, Germany) and Katalin Cseh (Momentum, Hungary). The event was moderated by ALDE Party Vice-President Baroness Sal Brinton.
The conversation touched upon many different subjects surrounding Europe’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic including how the EU and individual member states have responded to the crisis, the logistics surrounding the vaccine development process in Europe and how to make sure that the eventual distribution of a vaccine can reach all groups of people, especially marginalised communities.
Katalin Cseh stressed the importance of this by saying, “If we are doing something wrong, people can die [...] To make sure a vaccine is available to everyone has to be our top priority.”
As a surgeon, Andreas Glück focused on the importance of caring for patients, and said that moving forward, “The key is to bring medicine faster to the market whilst maintaining patient safety. And we need to fight patient disinformation.”
The panellists agreed that in order to effectively move forward in combating COVID-19, there needs to be multi-level coordination between the public and private sector, between European institutions, and between Brussels and individual member states. To this end, Zeger Vercouteren noted, “With our 134 years of experience, we really want to make sure that that dialogue between all of the European institutions, industry, science, and other players comes to life.”
While these issues are difficult to address and require much work moving forward, all speakers were hopeful that the lessons learned from this pandemic will push Europe forward in developing comprehensive EU-wide health policies, and that in the event of a future pandemic, Europe will be able to respond with increased solidarity, coordination and capacity.