'EU countries want us to take a stronger role' - Commission faces test of unity amid corona crisis

'EU countries want us to take a stronger role' - Commission faces test of unity amid corona crisis
Copyright EC Ylva Johansson
By Maria Psara, Joanna Gill
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European Commissioner Ylva Johansson says there are problems to be solved in how the EU deals with with the crisis as a unit, but that member states are willing to work together, despite several countries taking unilateral decisions in previous days.


Coronavirus has proved a tough test for cooperation at EU level. Images of trucks stranded at Poland's border was reminder that most EU countries act alone when a crisis strikes. Brussels has struggled to keep borders open to ensure essential supplies can get to where they are needed.

Speaking to Euronews, Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, said that now the situation is getting better.

"I understand that member states have been acting very rapidly on this, trying to prevent or to have a low level of social interaction... The virus is already in all member states, so there is no possibility to stop the virus by stopping people at the borders, but what we can is to limit social interaction by making people travelling less."

Border control remains a national decision - making any coordination efforts complicated and slow, which has proven critical in the rapid spread of coronavirus across Europe.

The EU has little leeway to ensure member states act together.

"What we see is that member states ask the Commission to take a stronger role than we traditionally do in these areas," says Johansson. "What we see now is that they are asking for coordination, they are welcoming the guidelines and are working together with each other and with the Commission, trying to solve the obstacles and the problems that have been cost by this decisions and try to solve it in a smooth way."

Brussels institutions have been holding daily video conferences to speed up the delivery of several promises of aid, medical stockpiles and financial tools.

The unprecedented situation has forced EU countries to work more closely together.

"There are still problems to solve," admits Johansson, "but I see that there is a strong willingness from the member states to do so together with each other and together with us."

While the Commissioner presents a rosy outlook. The key values of the EU - freedom of movement and the single market - face even tougher test, as Europe faces the peak of new infections in the days ahead.

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