‘Time for change!’ Von der Leyen blasted by EU leader for failing in coronavirus response

Czech President Miloš Zeman has issued a scathing condemnation of the EU’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, accusing the bloc of “absolute failure”. The European leader especially hit out at the European Commission, headed by Ursula von der Leyen, and has warned “it is time for a change”.

Speaking to Czech news site Blesk, Mr Zeman said: “The European Union absolutely failed and especially the European Commission.”

He hit out at Ms von der Leyen’s repeated calls to keep national borders open during the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak and said: “When von der Leyen recommended opening the borders, she supported the increase of the epidemic.”

According to the Czech President, her appeals, if adhered to by national governments, would have led to an “explosion of an incomparably stronger pandemic”.

On March 26, almost two weeks after the outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the European Commission President said it made no sense to shut borders during the crisis.

She said: “A successful European response can only be coordinated if our internal market and our Schengen area work the way it should.

“A crisis without borders cannot be resolved by putting barriers between us.

“And yet, this is exactly the first reflex that many European countries had. This simply makes no sense.”

Ms von der Leyen said border closures would harm companies significantly and interrupt key supply chains across Europe.

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Several European countries defied Ms von der Leyen’s demands, and closed their borders to all foreign travellers.

The Czech government closed its borders from March 16 and Mr Zeman said he was glad officials took the approach.

He said: “If the borders stayed open, the epidemic outbreak would be incomparably larger.”

Other countries introduced similar measures, with Denmark, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia being among the first to close borders to all foreigners.

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The Czech President urged the Government to consider extending the border closure for at least a year and said he expects the country’s state of emergency to continue until May 11.

Mr Zeman also said the epidemic has proved the inability for the EU to coordinate effectively.

For example, he pointed out the bloc had no pandemic plan that could have helped create a united approach to the outbreak.

As a result, he said the coronavirus crisis would “definitely weaken” the EU.

The Czech President called for a change in the EU’s leadership.

He said: “Let us try to have people like the founding fathers at the head of the EU and not the grey white-collar nobodies.”

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