„TO: Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy
Brussels, 18 March 2020
The European Union is facing one of the most serious public health crises in decades. A strong coordinated response is needed in order to overcome this situation. The European Commission has undertaken several steps to enhance coordination among Member States and to alleviate the economic effects of this crisis. All these efforts are welcome. But we need more.
This is why, I am writing to request the Commission to temporarily suspend all tariffs applied to all protective equipment, as well as other relevant medical equipment, in line with the competences of the Commission. This will help national authorities tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.
Such a measure will save the lives of our citizens, will prevent the spread of the virus and will support Member States in tackling the crisis. Moreover, it will alleviate the pressure on public spending at national level for such equipment.
Many Member States face severe shortage of protective equipment. A significant proportion of the current needs of EU patients, health personnel, field workers as well as civil protection authorities, cannot be met through the production capacity of Member States. Should the current situation continue, the risk to the public health will increase rapidly. It is our duty to ensure that the import of protective equipment is facilitated. Our obligation is to ensure that these supplies are available in every single Member State of the European Union at affordable prices.
Currently the Common Customs Tariff foresees customs duties for the import of face masks, face shields, gloves and other protective equipment into the EU. The level of these tariffs varies from product to product. We can safely argue that by applying customs tariffs the EU is not facilitating the availability of these products. On the contrary, even if some of these tariffs may be very low, in the current circumstances when our economies are put to a great test, these tariffs represent serious barriers to a more efficient response to the ongoing outbreak.
I count on your understanding for the urgency of such a measure and request that it is put in practice as soon as possible.
I remain at your disposal for further clarifications.
Member of the European Parliament
Vice Chair of the EPP Group”