Amid the current COVID 19 crisis, Dr Christian Ehler, EPP coordinator in the Industry and Research Committee, calls for an emergency programme to improve security at European airports.

“The Coronavirus crisis is mobilizing all energies. Our first priority at this point is to contain the spread of the virus. Behind the scenes, scientists are working tirelessly to develop treatment solutions. However, it is not enough to concentrate research efforts only on the development of a vaccine. We must think ahead now and take the next steps quickly to be better prepared for the future. The Coronavirus crisis will not remain an isolated case. We urgently need better equipment at airports and better detection systems for health symptoms.”

“As rapporteur for both Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe, I have strengthened the security research part and raised it as high priority. There we put in place the right framework conditions, and thus, one of Europe’s strongest weapons in the fight against pandemics. Horizon 2020 – and its successor Horizon Europe – has the world’s largest security research programme. Now the European Commission should use these funds quickly and unbureaucratically, for example to advance the development of contactless technologists for the early detection of diseases at airports”.

“We have responded quickly and effectively to the threat of terrorism and have learned that joint actions work better. We have already achieved remarkable success in this area and can now build on existing expertise and research results. These lessons learnt should be transferred to pandemic risks as the next step. The security research programme provides us with funds and various tools which should now be put into use, and topped up, as quickly as possible. If there is a need to adapt current regulations, for example on airport traffic or security, this should be done in a factual and not ideological way”.

“We applaud the measures already taken by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, which includes the pooling of almost 140 million euros to fight COVID-19. The Commission has launched a special call for tender within Horizon 2020, mobilised relevant stakeholders in the framework of the public-private partnership Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) as well as the European Investment Bank. Focus must now move swiftly towards the detection of diseases and conditions. Support should be given not only to the further development of detection systems that can be used comprehensively, but also to their implementation in the European markets. ”

“The origin of the virus, which is still largely uncertain, and its extraordinary contagion potential should make us aware that our interconnected world has shrunk considerably and that we will only overcome this and future crisis with joint coordinated actions between countries. Some lessons could already be learned today, this crisis is the touchstone of our ability to work together in an emergency situation on the one hand, and to remain true to our long-term goals on the other. ”

“The importance of research and development is clear and yet another reason for Member States to support our proposal to increase the budget to 120 billion euros for Horizon Europe. We must now think big, not just fast. In order to make decisive progress, the Commission could launch a prize of around 30 million euros to promote and reward research efforts into better detection technologies at airports, thus enabling the rapid development of reliable automatic tests.”