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It is right that Europe as a whole offers a heartfelt apology to Italy

President Ursula von der Leyen
“Apology” speech in the European Parliament
©European Commission*

Brussels, 16 April 2020


You cannot overcome a pandemic of this speed or this scale without the truth. The truth about everything: the numbers, the science, the outlook – but also about our own actions.

Yes, it is true that no one was really ready for this. It is also true that too many were not there on time when Italy needed a helping hand at the very beginning.

And yes, for that, it is right that Europe as a whole offers a heartfelt apology.

But saying sorry only counts for something if it changes behaviour.

The truth is that it did not take long before everyone realised that we must protect each other to protect ourselves.

And the truth is too that Europe has now become the world’s beating heart of solidarity.

The real Europe is standing up, the one that is there for each other when it is needed the most.

The one where paramedics from Poland and doctors from Romania save lives in Italy. Where ventilators from Germany provide a lifeline in Spain. Where hospitals in Czechia treat the sick from France. And where patients from Bergamo are flown to clinics in Bonn.

We have seen medical supplies go from Lithuania to Spain and respirators go from Denmark to Italy. In fact, we have seen every piece of equipment go in every direction across Europe, from whoever can spare it to whoever that needs it.

A hospital in Spain

This makes me proud to be European.

Of course, there are still some who want to point fingers or deflect blame. And there are others who would rather talk like populists than tell unpopular truths.

To this, I say stop.

Stop and have the courage to tell the truth.

Have the courage to stand up for Europe. Because this Union of ours will get us through. But it will only be as strong tomorrow as we make it today.

And if you need inspiration, just look at the way the people of Europe are standing together – with empathy, humility and humanity.

I pay tribute to them all. To the delivery drivers and the food suppliers. The shopkeepers, the factory packers and the balcony clappers. The companies changing their production lines to make the supplies we urgently need.

I pay tribute to the Portuguese volunteers sewing masks for their neighbours or the seven-year-old Greek pianist who composed an “isolation waltz” to keep people going.

Above all else I thank and I pay tribute to our heroes: the medics, nurses and careworkers. They are the ones with bruises on their faces and tragic images in their hearts and minds. The ones holding the hands of the sick as softly and as lovingly as the families that cannot be there.

They are the ones saving our lives and saving our honour.

The ones we must protect so they can protect us all.


*European Commission, CC BY4.0


Bold type supplied.


Featured image (Venezia)/Federico Beccari
Quote mark/Bad JPG: w:Image:Quotation marks.JPG (Source), PD
Commission President von der Leyen/Renew Europe, CC BY-ND2.0
Apology/Vic, CC BY2.0
Hospital in Spain/Contando Estrelas, CC BY-SA2.0
“Thank you”/Jerney Furman, CC BY2.0