At the 70th session of its Regional Committee for Europe, taking place virtually on 14 and 15 September 2020, WHO’s Europe Office and the European Commission gave a new impetus to the EU’s and WHO’s partnership: in a joint statement, we recognised the synergies between our programs and a willingness to deepen our collaboration. Addressing the Committee, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, stressed that: “Only multilateralism can bring us global solutions to crises such as the one we have been facing since the beginning of 2020. On behalf of the Commission, I would like to recognise and support the leadership role that the WHO has played at both global and European level. Most urgently, we need to join forces to develop safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics to fight coronavirus. Because no one is safe until everyone is safe.” The joint statement focuses on cooperation in five priority areas: health security, health systems, non-communicable diseases with a focus on cancer, sustainable food systems and health as well as health cooperation with non-EU countries.
The coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing: to develop safe and effective vaccines for everyone, the EU has committed €400 million to the COVAX Facility in order to ensure vaccines for Middle and Low Income Countries and hosted the Coronavirus Global Response pledging initiative, which raised €16 billion to develop and deploy therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines. The Health Commissioner underlined in her keynote speech that the EU will continue to show its unwavering commitment and global leadership in these unprecedented times.
The EU and its Member States emphasized that a global response would not be possible without solidarity – and recalled in particular the recognition of vaccinations against COVID-19 as a global public good such as through ACT-A and the COVAX Facility. While the pandemic is not over, we have entered the phase of evolution and lessons learned, both at national and international levels: In this context, the EU and its Member States welcomed the start of the process of the independent evaluation to the COVID-19 response, as requested by the EU-led Covid-19 response resolution at the 73rd World Health assembly in April this year.
The EU stressed that the current focus on COVID-19 should not divert attention from WHO’s work in these and other essential areas. The European Programme of Work for 2020-2025 will define the framework for the constructive collaboration between the EU and the WHO Europe in the challenging times ahead.