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Speech of President von der Leyen at the "Conference on strengthening the role of the EU in Global Health", organised by the Portuguese Presidency

Speech given yesterday by President von der Leyen at the "Conference on strengthening the role of the EU in Global Health", organised by the Portuguese Presidency.

"Check against delivery"

Thank you for your invitation, Minister Temido.

And thank you, for organising this conference on Global Health.

Nelson Mandela used to say: “In a globalised world, we are the keepers of our brothers and sisters, especially in the arena of health.”

The corona pandemic has confirmed how right he was. We can only contain the virus by joining forces with our friends in other countries and continents. Otherwise, the virus will keep spreading and mutating. If we care about our own health, we must care for others too.

Health diplomacy is now central to a modern European foreign policy. Since the early months of the pandemic, we have worked to shape a European approach to health diplomacy.

It's based on two pillars. First, team-play. And second, we're in it for the long haul.

On the first point: Instead of competing with others, Europe has chosen to build a global alliance. Almost one year ago, we joined forces with the WHO, with other governments and with charitable foundations. Together we created the ACT-Accelerator, the global initiative to help all countries get access to tests, treatments and vaccines.

The best-known building block of this initiative is COVAX. To end the pandemic, we will need billions of vaccines by the end of this year. And we need these vaccines to reach low- and middle-income countries too. This can only be achieved through a multilateral initiative like COVAX.

Team Europe has contributed 2.2 billion euros to COVAX. And we are glad that the US has now joined us, too. COVAX is for all humankind. Everyone can donate, and everyone can benefit from it.

The second pillar of our approach to global health is being forward-looking. We need more than one-off donations. We must step up the world's capacity to produce vaccines, as well as our collective preparedness against health crises.

This kind of work begins here in Europe, where we are working with pharmaceutical/ companies to step up vaccine production. Let us not forget that Europe today is the world's largest exporter of vaccines.

We know, we are in this together.

Because we also know: If only the people in Europe are vaccinated, this does not help much. Mutants from other countries and continents can destroy whatever progress we have made – at any time. That's why our commitment goes well beyond Europe's borders. We are exploring solutions to scale up the manufacturing capacity of vaccines inside Africa. And the next European budget will invest in the capacity of health systems around the world.

Making our partners more self-reliant is in Europe's interest too.

And let us admit it: the world was not prepared for a global pandemic of this unprecedented scale. But we have acted.

Last year, we went from hearing for the first time about COVID-19 to fast-tracking R&D. We expanded our testing capacity exponentially, and managed to bring several vaccines to the market. We did this in record time. This is remarkable.

But we must now move from the ad-hoc solutions of this year towards a sustainable system. This will help us manage and prevent health crises in the future. This is exactly the goal of the Global Health Summit, that I will co-host with Italy on 21 May. At this Summit, we will agree on principles that can guide our future responses.

There are already some lessons the world learned from this pandemic.

First: We shall commit to managing local health threats rapidly and in solidarity, before they become global crises. Because cross-border health threats require cross-border cooperation.

Second: We have to embed health in all policies, in an evidence-based way. This means that all government departments, including finance, should be involved, as well as civil society and the private sector. And together we must invest adequately in our preparedness, because this is money well spent.

These principles have driven our European response to the pandemic. And I believe that we can build the broadest coalition around this approach.

This is how I see Europe's role in global health. We strongly believe in cooperation. We are coalition-builders. We seek solutions that will stand the test of time, and that leave no one behind.

This is the European way to health diplomacy.

I wish you all a very fruitful conference.

And thank you for your attention.

Press contact

Eric MAMER

Phone
+32 2 299 40 73

Mail
eric.mamer@ec.europa.eu

Dana SPINANT

Phone
+32 2 299 01 50

Mail
dana.spinant@ec.europa.eu

 

Original article link: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_21_1402

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