How will the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak impact Europe’s citizens, the European Single Market and businesses? These were the key topics covered by Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe fit for the Digital Age, last week at a debate organised by Friends of Europe in Brussels.
“We have a very specific job to do which is to make sure that people stay healthy, that vulnerable people are not falling victims of this virus, that our health system, our social contract, our society, is still maintained,” Vestager said, highlighting the need to push through this crisis together.
The European Commission is currently working with a lot of data gathered from the EU Member States, including data on the usage of medical supplies, which will help the Commission take action and make valid decisions, Vestager summarised.
“There is a balance here. Between how data can be used to control the virus and the pandemic whilst still maintaining the fundamental values which makes our societies what they are,” she said.
“The reason why we stay at home, why we keep a distance, is of course that we trust our authorities in what they say and what they ask us to do. That trust is our most important tool in fighting this pandemic, and this should also be present when we use technology.”
With borders closed and value chains broken during the ongoing crisis, Europe has seen what dramatic effects a non-functional Single Market can have.
“The Commission, with an unprecedented level of support, use and work to preserve the Single Market, because when we want to get back to on our feet again – we really need the Single Market to work for us,” Vestager said, stressing the importance of the Single Market as one of the fundamentals of the European Union and its role as a long-term project that can’t be sacrificed for short-term solutions. On the temporary framework for state aid – one of the first things that the Commission introduced as the crisis began – Vestager underlined that no fair competition should be compromised.
“When you want to support a business during these very critical weeks and months, you need to make sure that you do not try to reintroduce things that we would not accept in another situation. This would completely unlevel the playing field,” she concluded.
You can watch the discussion in full below.