According to the World Health Organisation, two million Europeans may die between November 2021 and March 2022 in the European region. The new Omicron variant and the deterioration of the general health situation in Europe in the autumn of 2021 show that the strategy to fight against the Covid19 must necessarily be European and global.
As long as the majority of the world's population is not vaccinated, all people are at risk and dangerous mutations will continue to appear. In the face of the sixth wave, the right to free movement must also be preserved. Thus, it is essential to take coordinated measures at European level.
Despite lack of hard competences at European level, the EU succeeded in developing a strategy to face the COVID crisis and responded to the main concerns of the European citizens during the pandemic, with the launch of the Health Union advocated by UEF and the common purchase of vaccines.
Furthermore, with more than 725 million EU Digital COVID Certificates issued since July 2021, the EU restored the freedom of movement in the EU, a fundamental right according to the EU Charter for EU citizens and people living in the EU but also for third country nationals travelling to and from EU countries. The EU managed to set an international standard facilitating people mobility as currently 25 third countries from 5 continents are connected to the EU system and 35 applied to be connected.
The UEF welcomes the initiative of the European Commission recommending a third dose of the Covid 19 vaccine made on November 25, 2021 for the entire population and its inclusion in the EU Digital COVID certificate.
However, it is urgent to further strengthen the common European strategy against COVID, since vaccination rates are low in many Member States, and sizeable pockets of population still refuse to be vaccinated.
For this reason, we propose to the European institutions the adoption or promotion of the following measures:
- Preserve the freedom of movement, a fundamental right for EU citizens and the functioning of the Schengen area by revising the rules for reintroduction of internal border controls in order to avoid the systematic and unnecessary re-establishment of unilateral cross-border barriers in Europe and deploy common border approaches with third countries.
- Develop a coherent and prompt common policy reply to address the urgent health crisis by setting a comprehensive set of measures, based on epidemiological evidence, to be implemented at a European level in close cooperation with local authorities.
- Recommend to Member States the vaccination of the age group 5 to 11 years, already authorized by the European Medicines Agency on 25 November 2021
- Strengthen research and innovation policies for developing new vaccines, including the continuous update of the current vaccines to adapt to dangerous mutations, and supporting the industrial expansion of vaccine production capacity to supply the EU and the rest of the world.
- Develop a European Health Semester, including the eventuality of periodical Covid-19 vaccination for all, on a permanent basis.
- Recommend to Member States to require the EU vaccination certificate to access places of work, leisure, educational centers, public transport and travel.
- Requirement of the vaccine certificate for cross-border travel, topped up of negative PCR for travelling through EU external borders.
- Support the WHO initiative for a Global Health Treaty with clear conditions for the prevention of future pandemics, coherent measures for crisis intervention, vaccine production and global distribution.
- Reinforcement of the Covax initiative, through a Global Health Pact, financed with extraordinary issuance of special drawing rights from the IMF and donations from developed countries. To this end, immediate convening of an international donor conference by the EU and the United Nations.
- Further support and develop measures to respond to the threat posed by disinformation, misinformation and foreign influence operations, related to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination procedure.
After successive waves, it is also imperative to strengthen a European strategy in the medium term, in order to achieve when necessary full vaccination of Europeans and on a global scale. We also call on the Conference on the Future of Europe to strengthen the EU's health competencies, through the necessary reform of the Treaties.