Pandemic crisis in Romania. The EU must act now
Pandemic crisis in Romania. The EU must act now
With only about 30% of the population fully vaccinated, Romania is the second least vaccinated country in the European Union. As a result, it is currently topping in the number of new cases and deaths. In addition, intensive care units are long past their capacities, and patients are refused hospitalisation, even when they immediately need it. As a result, the Romanian health system is close to collapsing, doctors are exhausted, fires break out in hospitals due to electricity and oxygen grids overloading, and hundreds of citizens are killed every day by Covid 19.
This is a major public health and social problem. The EU and the member states must act now by helping manage this crisis, building trust in the vaccination campaign and improving the response capacity.
Romania started the vaccination campaign successfully in December 2020, and it had one of the fastest vaccine rollouts across the EU at the beginning of 2021. However, strong misinformation campaigns from multiple actors, including allegedly foreign governments (see this article and this report), together with the systemic mistrust in the national authorities powered by the political crisis (see this article), have undermined the vaccination campaign. Additionally, multiple conflicting messages around the restrictions, loosely backed up by scientific arguments, doubled by the economic decay of some sectors, destroyed the population's confidence in the ability of the government to act according to the needs of the situation. Subsequently, the current crisis became inevitable.
On the 5th of October, Romania activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) and asked for help from the EU and the member states. Unfortunately, the help was delayed, and only a few countries volunteered to send sanitary materials and take in some patients. Surpassing this crisis requires much stronger solidarity and collaboration between our member states.
Volt Europa’s demands
The EU and its Member States urgently need to show stronger solidarity and support to Romania:
- Send doctors, medical personnel, medical supplies and take in more patients to support the overwhelmed capacities of the Romanian hospitals and medical system. The insufficiently developed Romanian health system has reached its capacity, and the member states can and must share their resources and experience in managing this pandemic wave where the union’s citizens are suffering the most;
- Get actively involved in promoting the vaccination campaign and fight misinformation. Opinion polls in Romania keep showing strong support and trust for the EU, much above the national government’s. The EU must take responsibility and build confidence in the vaccination campaign on top of the trust shown by Romanians;
- Ask the national authorities to end the political struggle immediately and take responsibility for managing the COVID crisis. The struggle for power between the political parties takes precedence over the national interest and the right to life and health for millions of Romanians. PNL, the current governing party, together with President Klaus Iohannis, must act responsibly and only in the public interest, combine their efforts and good faith and immediately end the government crisis, which is causing decision-making chaos, including in the health sector;
Moving forward, the EU needs to improve its response in times of crisis:
- Unlock the full potential of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism. The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of this mechanism as a keystone of the EU crisis response and solidarity when our countries are overwhelmed. Its budget was logically increased this year, and Member States finally agreed to integrate medical capacities in the stockpiles. Whilst a step in the good direction, more needs to be done: The Commission should be given the mandate to proactively create new medical stockpiles in strategic areas across the EU - without waiting for the Member States’ goodwill. A better network of stockpiles means more resources to be rapidly delivered to countries in times of crisis;
- Fully empower the new European Health Emergency Response Authority (HERA) to coordinate efforts and supervise all health crises and emergencies across the EU. This must include the purchasing and stockpiling of medical products, such as the ones currently needed in Romania, as well as their deployments at local levels;
- Set up permanent and autonomous European crisis response units. The EU should be empowered with units of highly specialised professionals under the Commission’s management and European Parliament’s scrutiny. They would include medical teams able to be swiftly deployed without greenlight by the Council to respond to sudden-onset crises.
Reinier van Lanschot, Co-President of Volt Europa
Stefan Razvan Florea, Co-President of Volt Romania