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MEPs row over Covid-19 data

Image: European Union

Centre-right group criticises parliamentary rivals for not backing their data-sharing idea

MEPs in the centre-right European People’s Party have hit out at rival groups in the European Parliament for not backing a Covid-19 data-sharing initiative the EPP proposed as part of a broad package of actions to combat the pandemic.

By not supporting a legislative amendment to create an EU coronavirus data centre and common standards for data collection, the liberal Renew Europe and centre-left Socialists & Democrats groups “denied the European Union an extremely useful tool,” according to EPP member Christian Ehler.

The EPP said on 17 April that member states’ data on Covid-19 cannot be compared due to a lack of common standards. Ehler, who is the EPP coordinator on the Parliament’s research committee, said a central repository would also allow analysis using artificial intelligence.

“The coronavirus pandemic has—beyond any doubt—highlighted the need to create such an EU data centre for emergency response and analysis. It would include vital data relating to vaccines, treatments, allowing faster clinical uptake,” Ehler said.

Responding to the allegation, the S&Ds told Research Professional News that the Parliament resolution, including the amendment, had been jointly negotiated by all the major political groups and that the text supported the further development of cloud data services.

“We were in principle against all amendments to the resolution and only supported very few that added something important to the text,” a spokesman said, adding that the EPP amendment “was going too far”. Renew Europe did not respond to an invitation to comment.

Research Professional News understands that MEPs on the Parliament’s research committee are pooling amendments originating within the same political group to ensure that committee business can keep pace with the parliamentary calendar despite a reduction in debating time due to remote working.

Parliament’s non-binding resolution on EU-coordinated action, passed by a vote of the whole house on 17 April, calls for the EU to work together more, including by supplying extra funding for vaccine research.