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Thank you President, Honourable Members,
On behalf of [High Representative/Vice-President Josep] Borrell, I welcome this very important debate on the COVID-19 pandemic situation in Latin America and indeed in your contributions to this debate you have outlined the very difficult, indeed harrowing situation on the ground, the lives lost and the rapid spread of infection.
This debate is also a recognition of the strategic importance of Latin America to the European Union. Indeed the priorities that you have identified are in line with those that guide our actions: social inclusion, the fight against inequalities, sustainable economic recovery, governance, security, migration, and regional integration, including of course the green and the digital transformations.
The Commission and the External Action services are working intensively to formulate the European Union’s cooperation with the Americas region for the coming period 2021-2027. The areas that I just mentioned are those that will be covered by our programming. There is an increased awareness of the importance of all our transatlantic relations. But there is still much that needs to be done. Not only do we need to tackle poverty; we also need to build prosperity. We need to help ensure that every voice can be heard, including especially those of women, girls, and indigenous peoples. This year 2021 is a critically important year to deliver.
We all know that the pandemic has had a particularly devastating impact on Latin America, cutting across national boundaries and political affiliations. This is when partnership really matters. The EU’s response has been to redouble our efforts in engaging with all the countries of Latin America. After two ministerial meetings last year, we are now working on a Summit level meeting to revitalise our dialogue.
At the same time, we have transformed our practical cooperation. Through Team Europe, more than €2.4 billion has been devoted to Latin America and the Caribbean. Through COVAX, the EU has helped ensure 38 million vaccines for 30 countries across the Americas through international cooperation. And of course more is needed. But I would like to stress that from the very beginning the European Union has advocated for a multilateral approach to ensure the provision of vaccines everywhere. The European Union has been a key initiator with the World Health Organisation and international health organisations of the ACT [Access to COVID-19 Tools] Accelerator, the global framework to accelerate the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments, and the top contributor from the very start to COVAX, the vaccine pillar of ACT Accelerator.
In support of that, we launched the global Coronavirus response to help mobilise the necessary resources and close to €16 billion so far has been raised for vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and support the global economic recovery. The European Commission is ready to facilitate the donation or resale of vaccines procured by European Union Member States through the European Union advanced purchase agreement with producers or transfer of options through vaccines that become more widely available in particular through COVAX.
Dear President, dear Members,
In recent days, we have seen how the news cycle has shifted away from Latin America to the latest epicentre of the crisis. And this is why it is important for the European Union, and for this House, to maintain its attention on Latin America in the months ahead. It is more important than ever to build cooperation, through lasting agreements, and therefore build a better future for all our citizens.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-204645