The way the coronavirus epidemic has spread across Europe is a sign that the European Union needs an EU-level crisis centre to deal with this and similar crises in the future, according to Charles Michel, former Belgian prime minister and now president of the European Council.
Speaking on the VRT weekend political programme De Zevende Dag, Michel declined to follow French president Emmanuel Macron in describing the crisis as “a war”.
“But I share his belief that this crisis is exceptional by its very nature, and by its unpredictability,” he said.
One result of the unpredictability has been a series of diverse reactions in different European countries, from relative openness in the Netherlands where the government was pinning its hopes on herd immunity, to the complete lockdowns in Italy and Spain, with Belgium somewhere in between.
“Europe has taken concrete steps, but we need to show more solidarity,” he said. “We can see that not all countries have made the same analysis of the situation.”
The answer, he suggested, lies in the creation of a European crisis centre, not only for the Covid-19 pandemic, but also for future crises which require a concerted response.
“[Such a centre] doesn’t exist yet, but this crisis shows that it will be crucially important to give Europe more resources and more instruments to manage a crisis,” he said.
“Not only on a health care level. There is a lack of unity of command at the European level. I hope we will be able to change that quickly after this crisis. I am also thinking of the creation of a European civil protection unit, for the collective management of medical material. A real European crisis centre would contribute to more solidarity.”