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PPE Community: The Extracurricular Programme

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Marie Pöhlmann – Greek Hospitals – Or how the EU is defaulting on their promises

A family living next to my parent’s house in Germany recently told us about their vacation in Greece. They spend a wonderful time in Koroni, a picturesque town on the Peloponnese, swimming on the beach and drinking Ouzo. However, they also had an experience that tells much more about the daily lives of the Greek. As they were taking on the one-hour drive to the next airport in Kalamata, they became witnesses of a serious accident. A car severed and crashed into a tractor it had overlooked at full speed. While our neighbours luckily remained unharmed the other parties were seriously injured. Civil helpers arrived almost instantly, and our neighbours were urged to carry on as there was nothing else they could do. They made their way to the airport on the only road leading to Kalamata and only 10 minutes before reaching the city they came across an ambulance heading the other way. One can only wonder whether it ever arrived at the site of the accident in time.

The story my neighbours told us bears witness to the underdeveloped state of care infrastructure in Greece. Hospitals are sometimes an hour away while also being seriously understaffed which leads to long waiting times for ambulances. These smaller hospitals are not equipped to deal with all conditions which means that in serious cases patients have to make the drive to Athens which in these serious cases can be way too long.

Differences in health care infrastructure show sharp contrasts in-between EU countries: in Germany, placed on the other end of the spectrum as far as intra-EU economic development goes, 95% of all emergencies receive help from the health authorities within 16,9 minutes. EU countries remain in different stages of economic development with fatal consequences for its citizens. In case of an emergency every second counts. Not having adequate care infrastructures in place can lead to premature deaths where in more developed countries an incident could just mean a few days in the hospital. Guaranteeing access to health care services is a basic step when trying to promote equality of opportunity and quality of life.

“Our vision is a European Union where people in all our regions and cities can realise their full potential. We aim for lasting improvement in the economy and quality of life for everybody, wherever they live.” (European Union, mission statement)

Taking a look at the EU’s mission statement I first want to clarify that I understand that it is a vision and not the supposed status quo. However, is it a vision that the EU has any realistic chance to achieve? Making it become reality would entail some form of a “European Welfare State” where all European citizens are equally entitled to a of bundle services that ensure that everyone can realise their full potential. Whether or not these services are provided within a formal European Welfare State structure or via transfer payments that are given specifically to realize these services, the necessary precondition would remain relatively the same: a huge amount of solidarity in-between European citizens. The kind of solidarity that is not given in the EU’s current political climate. Poorer as well as wealthier countries have growing populist movements with an anti-European stance. While citizens of wealthier countries are increasingly under the impression that they are compromising economic development by giving out free money, citizens of poorer countries feel as if they are under constant scrutiny by leaders which they did not democratically elect.

The EU’s mission statement is a beautiful example of what we could achieve by working together as a true European community. However, these visions are not currently materializing in an EU where countries seem too intertwined and too loosely bound together at the same time. The EU should make good on their promises, however, in the current constellation there is no way that they will.

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