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José Manuel Fernandes

José Manuel Fernandes

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José Manuel Fernandes

Portuguese MEP, Professor and Politician

José Manuel Fernandes
The pandemic and the war provoked by Russia, has made the urgency of the European Union’s strategic autonomy – even more – evident. The EU’s reaction to the pandemic was swift and effective, with the European Commission purchasing and distributing vaccines to all member states. Competition in the purchase of vaccines would have proved a disaster. Apart from the price hike it would have caused, the richer member states would have been the first to vaccinate their citizens. The success of the EU took place despite health being a national responsibility. It is clear that the EU needs to strengthen this responsibility in order to decide quickly and coherently. We need to strengthen joint investment in scientific research, in the production of medicines and health equipment.
In a historic decision, the EU went into debt to finance the member states so that they could respond to the negative economic consequences resulting from the pandemic. In addition, common solutions were created to finance protecting the jobs of the citizens. The EU reacted swiftly, promoting joint responses through concrete actions and solidarity. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has revealed herself to be competent and courageous, while the European Parliament has worked uninterruptedly and swiftly and the Council has reached decisions that require unanimity.
Regarding the war provoked by Russia in Ukraine, the reaction of the European institutions has been swift and positive. We finance humanitarian aid and the reception of refugees. We have supported Ukraine financially and the purchase of arms to protect itself. We have approved tough economic sanctions on Russia. This war has made our weaknesses, such as our energy dependence, evident, it has shown the need to strengthen national defence budgets and to coordinate our military forces. In Ukraine, it has been a private individual, Elon Musk, offering his satellites for communications that have proved crucial. This makes no sense because the EU has the capacity to strengthen its sovereignty. The problem is that our rulers are doing too much navel gazing, not anticipating, not preventing. If we had acted, we would not need to react. Everyone knew that Putin could not be trusted. Even so, they decided to buy energy from Russia, because it was cheaper, and they became dependent. Today, still today, we buy about 1 billion Euros in energy a day from Russia. We are financing Mr Putin's arms. To stop the war, we have to stop energy imports from Russia.
To maintain our safety, quality of life and social status, we need a strong, autonomous EU with fast decision-making and more powers.
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