Andrey Kovatchev: A unified health safety protocol for Covid-19 is needed

It is democratic to freely express your opinion, but not by means of blockades

The European Commission insists from the beginning of the pandemic that there must be a common European health safety protocol. It should include common criteria for indicating when restrictions should enter into force and of what type they should be. It is better to have a European approach, and that is the reason I inquired with the EC whether it has requested from the Member States to unite around a common health safety protocol,MEP Andrey Kovatchev says in an interview with Monitor news agency..

Mr Kovatchev, you have submitted an inquiry to the EC about the absence of a unified health safety protocol for Covid-19 and the restrictions on freedom of movement in the EU. What should such a protocol encompass?

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission has stated that there must be a common European health safety protocol. It should include common criteria for indicating when restrictions should enter into force and of what type they should be. I consider that there should be a common passenger identifier, the so-called QR code, which different countries have been introducing. You know that in different countries, different conditions for visits prevail, as well as different criteria and restrictions for a certain number of infected people. It is therefore better to have a European approach, and that is the reason I inquired with the EC whether it has requested from the Member States to unite around a common health safety protocol and harmonisation of the requirements. This is necessary to be done because, as you can see, some countries require a negative PCR test when entering their territory from a high-risk country. Then you are released from a 14-day quarantine. We are still in August, and we are awaiting for respiratory viruses during the autumn-winter period. Experts expect the situation to worsen. That is why there must be security for the benefit of businesses and citizens, so that the situation from March-April does not happen again. Let's identify regions which are really dangerous and where an appropriate quarantine is to be observed. Then it must be decided which is the correct course of action - one negative PCR test, several tests during a time period, or 14 days of quarantine in any case. There are several options.

Each region presents different kinds of risks, how appropriate will it be to introduce uniform conditions?

Surely, there are different kinds of risks in the different regions, so they must be identified. Germany, for example, currently recognises certain regions as risky, Belgium recognises different ones. This can also be done at European level. Of course, an entire country cannot be put in quarantine, only separate outbreaks can, if there would be such. However, this is extremely difficult for the free movement in a given country, if Europe-wide measures are not in place.

When do you expect to receive an answer from the EC on this issue?

I hope that in early September it will become clear what measures the European Commission has taken. However, I would like to point out that I have personally written to Ms Ursula von der Leyen and she indicated that she would directly address the European citizens by making a statement on the national TV channels of the Member States. In this statement she has to explain what measures the European Union has taken for the winter season. In my opinion, no action should be expected from the national governments alone. We ourselves, as European citizens, must perceive that there is a functioning European Commission when it comes to the economic recovery. Only this way we can have predictability. We need to know the measures which are being launched. The question is not only about the funding, but about a health safety protocol, free movement, risks for tourism and more. It must not appear to anyone that the EU does not exist in this coronavirus pandemic. Steps have been taken to deal with the current situation, but the public must be informed about them.

What is your forecast for the autumn-winter period in terms of the economic situation in the EU and do you think that unemployment will rise? The forecasts in general are quite negative. Do you think that the agreed financing will help to overcome an economic crisis?

This financing must be implemented quickly and the Member States must draw their national recovery plans. But it has just started and the money has not yet been used. There is no way to predict how the coronavirus pandemic will develop. We must be prepared to face the challenges and even to face a more serious development, hoping it will not happen.

Will the circumstances in Bulgaria become more complicated due to the political situation and how will you comment the protests? Do they have already a resonance in Brussels?

The European Parliament is starting its work already and this week a hearing of a committee on the situation in Bulgaria will be held. Most probably it will be on Friday. I consider that it is democratic for everyone to express freely their views, but I do not think that this should be done by means of blockades and restrictions to the other citizens' rights. It is good for young people to be active citizens, we have always called on them to vote, to exercise their right. However, there is also a democratically elected government with a legitimate mandate, and this fact must also be respected. What is happening now in Bulgaria is further complicating the difficult situation around the coronavirus pandemic.

What will a new election and the appointment of a provisional government bring?

There are different options and I cannot predict what will happen. I do not know how good it is to have a provisional government appointed by the current President Rumen Radev, but I would like to express my disappointment with him. I have even sent him an open letter requesting him to express his attitude and commitment regarding the victims of the totalitarian regimes. There is not a word from him so far. Based on his personal attitude, which is seriously related with the interpretation of the communist period in our country, I do not think that he is right to remain silent on this topic. I do not want to guess what would happen in case of a cabinet appointed by him now, my opinion may be emotional, but I am disappointed about the absence of a historically objective appraisal by the current head of state, and I would not like a provisional cabinet to become necessary.

What will be the priorities of the European Parliament for the new session?

Currently, the EU has no other priorities than the economic recovery, and the goal is to get the funds to those in need as quickly as possible. It is important for jobs to be provided, new technologies to be introduced, innovations, security and protection of external borders as well. The Committee on Foreign Affairs held an extraordinary meeting on the political situation in Belarus and called for non-violence. In our opinion, new, fair and democratic elections must be held.

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Andrey Kovatchev was born in 1967 in Sofia. He graduated from the University of Saarland, Germany, and has a PhD in Natural Sciences. Kovatchev is a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Human Rights at the European Parliament. He is also a member of the Delegation for Relations with the United States of the European Parliament. He is a substitute on the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and the Delegation to the EU-North Macedonia Joint Parliamentary Committee.

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