A lot to be proud of – Roberta Metsola and Manfred Weber

We need a common European vaccination certificate

Fri, Feb 19th 2021, 12:04 Last updated 2 weeks, 1 day ago

Roberta Metsola and Manfred Weber

Medical staff members take care of the first Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 disease vaccine delivery as it arrives at the UZ Leuven hospital, Belgium, as the vaccination programme began in EU countries. Photo: AFP

Despite the occasional hiccup, Europe has a lot to be proud of in the way that this unprecedented pandemic has been handled. While we must acknowledge where we could have done better or acted faster, we should not shy away from celebrating our successes.

Only 12 months after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have safe and effective vaccines in Europe and vaccination roll-out has begun in earnest. This is because of the EU and the commitment of our financial resources to research and development.

It is our Union that made that happen.

It is because of our Union, because of our value-system, because of our belief in joint action that every member state, irrespective of the size of their economy, was able to access vaccines at the same time.

It was the same argument that we made when we called for the joint procurement of ventilators and other equipment at the start of the pandemic. We prevented a situation of every state for themselves because we understood that we are all in this together and the only way out of it would be together.

In the darkest of times, we saw some of the best of Europe on display – from joint procurement, to the belief in research and our scientific capabilities, to the German medical team flying to Portugal, the Belgian and Italian patients treated across the border, Maltese designers sewing masks, Romanian doctors helping in Spain – we will get through this because we acted together.

Which is why we need to keep reiterating the dangers of vaccine nationalism. The contracts signed by the European Commission and the billions we invested meant that pharmaceutical companies could research and produce the doses required. Now the challenge is to meet demand and ensure companies deliver on the contracts. Companies must be responsible and reliable.

We should not allow anybody to have the mistaken impression that our Union only looks inwards when faced with a global scale pandemic. Some of the criticism has been fair, a lot has not but our Europe must be the example to the world, especially in these times of targeted disinformation when what we do matters so much more than what we say.

In the darkest of times we saw some of the best of Europe on display- Roberta Metsola and Manfred Weber

We all need to work hand in hand to ensure that conspiracy theories are not allowed to take hold. That is why Europe had such a strong process in approving the vaccine and such a robust approval mechanism. We refused to cut corners because Europe stands for science.

It is frustrating to see the speed of the roll-out in some parts of our Union – but we must resist the urge to point fingers and up the blame game or pit one state against the other. We need to vaccinate as many people as possible – as quickly as possible.

Europe has to become even more ambitious. The EPP Group is proposing a raft of measures, among which a €10 billion vaccination investment offensive to identify and set up additional vaccine production capacities. We face challenges on multiple fronts but we are ready to do whatever it takes to overcome; this is the most urgent task at this moment.   

We need a common European vaccination certificate as was floated by the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and supported by many, including Malta. Member states should cooperate now to enable a standard certificate process. Calling it a passport would be a misnomer – the idea must be for it to act not as a barrier to travel but as a means to break the barriers in place. It would be a first step towards safely, restarting economies and entire industries that have shut down at huge personal, social and economic cost.

As legislators, we have a duty to the next generations of Europeans who must continue to build up and to defend this project of ours. And we know our EPP family will be, as always, at the forefront of this debate.

MEP Roberta Metsola is the first vice president of the European Parliament. MEP Manfred Weber is chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament.