This statement is on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.
Covid-19 continues to spread with new virus variants causing concerns. Initial signs of appeasements in conflicts around the world have in the second half of 2020 reversed with recent data suggesting a rise in conflicts.
While the start of vaccine rollouts is bringing initial rays of hope, we know that the global recovery challenges will be with us long beyond the acute phase of the pandemic. Socio-economic and political grievances are on the rise, reshaping conflict dynamics and patterns and destabilising societies with disproportionate and differentiated effects on the elderly, women, youth, children and other people in vulnerable situations.
Rapid and equitable access to safe vaccinations for all is thus just as much an investment in global health, as it is an investment in related questions of security and peace. From the outset, the EU has been clear – global cooperation and solidarity are crucial to fight Covid-19 effectively. To win the battle against this pandemic, safe and effective vaccine and immunisation, as well as diagnostic and treatment, should be accessible to all across the globe. No one is safe until everyone is safe.
From the outset, the EU has played a central role in leading multilateral responses to ensure safe and fair access to vaccines for all, supporting the rapid development and production of vaccines against Covid-19 with a total of EUR 2.7 billion globally. Considering the COVAX Facility the best vehicle for delivering on international vaccine solidarity, the EU and its Member States, through Team Europe, have announced over €850 million for the COVAX Facility. This will contribute secure at least 2 billion doses, including at least 1.3 billion – probably significantly more - doses of vaccination for 92 low and middle-income countries, including fragile and conflict ridden countries, by the end of the year. This is more than half of COVAX total capacity for 2021.
The EU will maintain its support for COVAX, including the establishment of a Humanitarian Buffer of about 100 million doses for needs in humanitarian settings. It is crucial that it includes a transparent allocation mechanism that is fully in line with humanitarian principles. In addition, the EU is working on setting up an EU mechanism to facilitate the sharing of vaccines, procured by EU Member States through the EU’s advanced purchase agreements, to other countries via COVAX. Sharing vaccines with partners is essential to breaking the vicious circle of new mutations and ensure health security for all at global level. The EU vaccine sharing mechanism could benefit health workers and prioritise addressing humanitarian needs. The EU also stands ready to support vaccination campaigns in third countries via its development, humanitarian and civil protection instruments.
To ensure access to objective information on vaccines and to debunk misinformation contributing to vaccine hesitancy, the EU, in close coordination with the WHO and other partners, is countering lack of information and data voids with coherent and consistent messaging to audiences globally. The EU stepped up efforts to expose and counter coordinated disinformation campaigns targeting vaccine producers and making allegations of weak assistance to others.
The needs for manufacturing at scale, sufficient distribution, adequate storage and administering the vaccines are testing all of our financial and logistical capacities, as well as global collaboration and solidarity. The EU considers cooperation the best way forward: public-private partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry developing and manufacturing vaccines, and multilateral mechanisms to guarantee, safe, fair and equitable access to all.
Another challenge is the delivery of vaccines to countries with disrupted or broken import flows and damaged infrastructure. The EU is reinforcing Routine Immunization programmes (with WHO) which could also support the Covid-19 response, and considering supporting the delivery of vaccines and sending advisory missions to support vaccination campaigns in countries of need (under the Emergency Response Coordination Centre). And access to vaccines is not enough. Vaccination is an important part in the fight against the pandemic but needs strong health systems. So additionally, the EU provides systemic support for the strengthening of health systems in partner countries, which helps to tackle the pandemics, to be better prepared for the vaccine roll-out and to prevent future outbreaks.
The UN Security Council can play an important role in helping the international community to focus on ensuring that the world’s most vulnerable populations affected by conflict and insecurity, also receive fair and equitable access to vaccines. This includes bringing attention to the devastating effects that the pandemic has on people in fragile settings, and remaining open to consider the role that peace operations can play in this context. The EU supports the efforts of the UN Secretariat to find short-term solutions to the vaccination of uniformed peacekeeping personnel, until the national health systems are able to take over. The EU strongly supports the Secretary-General’s call for a global humanitarian ceasefire.
The EU will continue to help lead the multilateral response to this devastating global pandemic in close cooperation with the World Health Organisation and the United Nations. We fully support the UN Secretary-General’s initiatives to use this opportunity to strengthen the multilateral system. In this context, the EU will continue to promote the strengthening of the multilateral health architecture, including through the ongoing process of reform of the WHO. We also recall the upcoming Global Health Summit, under the current G20 Presidency and co-hosted with the European Commission, on 21 May, which aims at advancing global pandemic preparedness and global heath security and strengthening the multilateral global health architecture.
The EU will continue working with the UN and other partners to help ensure a better, safer, greener and fairer global response and recovery, taking into account the mid-and long-term impacts of the pandemic on peace and stability. In order to comprehensively address the effects of the pandemic, the EU and its Member States have been applying a strong joint-up approach – “Team Europe”. Through this joint effort, which also includes the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a global recovery package of EUR 38.5 billion has been mobilized to help our partners across the world address the short and longer-term needs resulting from the pandemic, including for instance via humanitarian support, strengthening health systems and fostering economic recovery and social protection.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.