We are together also in our determination to work as one to defeat this pandemic, with researchers around the world working to develop a vaccine and governments and private organisations pouring funds into joint schemes to support them and a full suite of international initiatives to counter the pandemic. Together we are equally determined to build back better, with the EU and partners mobilising unprecedented resources to support the most vulnerable, mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the crisis and invest from the start in a sustainable recovery based on fairness, equality, democracy and human rights. Together we will save more lives, protect more livelihoods and be better prepared for future challenges.
This international cooperation and solidarity is remarkable, and not at all inevitable. When the 1918-20 influenza epidemic killed an estimated 40-50 million around the world, there was little of it. Thanks in part of the hard lessons of this calamity combined with the further tragedies of war, by the time the next pandemic hit in 1957, the world was a very different place. The United Nations was founded in 1945; the World Health Organisation in 1948. In 1949 – 70 years ago to the day, Robert Schuman laid the groundwork for the European Union.
Today, the EU is the most remarkable and successful experiment in international cooperation ever seen. There may be hiccoughs and wrinkles, and it’s certainly a work in progress, but the benefits are obvious and enormous. In this crisis we have moved to quickly jointly fund research, jointly procure medical equipment, and are already busy debating how to, concretely and together, manage the recovery.
The EU as a driver of international cooperation and solidarity is not just an internal project. Far from it. We have always been a global actor, a leader in developing exchanges through trade, education, research, and partnerships for peace, stability and sustainable development based on universal values and human rights. We are the most ardent supporter and largest contributor to the global multilateral order, with the UN at its centre.
International cooperation is a complex – sometimes slow and tricky – process, but we know it works. In our experience it is the only system that can deliver peace and prosperity in the long-term. It is also evident that there is no alternative to addressing global challenges, from pandemics to climate change. And so we keep investing and experimenting and improving.
In 2010 we took a major step in this story by launching an integrated diplomatic and security service. The European External Action Service was established in a bid to bind the diplomatic services of EU countries closer together and to better leverage our combined efforts to protect our citizens and promote our shared vision of a world based on cooperation and partnerships for peace, human rights, and shared prosperity. Composed of European officials on the one hand and colleagues from the foreign and defence services of all 27 EU member states on the other – and deployed in Brussels and across more than 140 diplomatic Delegations as well as 16 security missions and operations worldwide – the EEAS is an example in international cooperative diplomacy and action like no other. And it has paid off. 10 years since its foundation, the EEAS, led by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is at the forefront of an ever-tighter European collective effort to chart new waters in international cooperation, with a special focus on mediation and conflict prevention, for the benefit of all.
In times such as these, such close coordination and solidarity, both between EU member states and together with our extensive network of partners around the world, is invaluable. Working as one we have managed to swiftly and safely repatriate nearly 600,000 European stranded all around the world in the wake of the pandemic– with the EEAS Consular Task Force coordinating national Embassies and with partner countries. Working as one we have successfully collected €7.4 billion in pledges from around the world towards a single pot for developing a vaccine, diagnostics and treatment – universally available and affordable. Working as one we have mobilised and delivered major support packages to our neighbours and to vulnerable countries around the world, and thrown our full weight and additional resources behind the WHO and the UN, who are best-placed to speedily deliver aid where it is needed most.
On Europe Day we come together to celebrate… coming together. This Europe Day we may be physically apart, but we have never been closer, both as European citizens and as Global citizens. That is, without doubt, something to celebrate.