EU Statement - United Nations Joint Briefing by the UN Secretary General, the President of the General Assembly, the President of the Economic and Social Council and the President of the Security Council on the COVID19 response

New York, 27/03/2020 - 14:59, UNIQUE ID: 200327_15
Statements on behalf of the EU

27 March 2020, New York - General Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by H.E. Mr Olof Skoog, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, on the occasion of the Joint Briefing by the UN Secretary General, the President of the General Assembly, the President of the Economic and Social Council and the President of the Security Council on the COVID19 response

We welcome the initiative taken by the President of the General Assembly to convene a joint briefing on a crisis which so severely affects our societies, our way of life, in fact humanity as a whole. 

The candidate countries Turkey, 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, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine align themselves with this statement.

Many of our leaders and the UN Secretary General have captured the seriousness of this global pandemic. But this struggle unlike others has one particularity; we are all fighting in the same camp. Solidarity and united responses should guide our action. Europe is now very painfully affected, and across the EU, Member States and EU institutions are now together deploying all possible efforts and solidarity to assist those most in need. However, other regions are also suffering and urgently need the help of the international community, especially countries with fragile health systems and underlying social and economic difficulties. Europe is ready to take its part. 

Let’s be clear: this is a global challenge. The virus does not need a passport, it does not stop at borders. No crisis needs more than this one a multilateral and coordinated response based on international cooperation and solidarity. Defeating the disease in each country of the world is in the strategic interest of each one of us. The EU and its Member States while addressing the pandemic at home are ready to stand up to the challenge and - as the world’s leading global development and humanitarian donor – we are mobilising all our tools to contribute to this unprecedented effort. 

Internally the EU aims at:

-   Ensuring the adequate supply of protective equipment and medical supplies across Europe;

-  Cushioning the blow for people’s livelihoods and the economy;

-  Setting up a EUR 37 billion Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative to provide liquidity to small businesses and the health care sector;

-  Providing a coherent set of guidelines to Member States on border measures to protect citizens’ health while allowing the free flow of essential goods;

-  Restricting temporarily non-essential travel to the European Union.

Our priority now is to flatten the trend of infection, to give health systems and workers the time and space to care for those that need it. This is to protect the health and safety of the European citizens and this is also a contribution to scale down the pandemic globally. 

Despite the enormous challenge we face internally, we have also mobilised a significant financial package in support of partner countries, because we are all in this fight together. On 24 February 2020, the European Commission announced the disbursement of EUR 232 million to help the global fight against COVID-19. The pledge consists of the following measures:

-  EUR 113.5 million will support the World Health Organization (WHO), in particular the global preparedness and response global plan. This intends to boost public health emergency preparedness and response work in countries with weak health systems and limited resilience.

- EUR 15 million are planned to be allocated in Africa, including to the Institut Pasteur Dakar, Senegal to support measures such as rapid diagnosis and epidemiological surveillance.

-  EUR 100 million will address the need for further research on diagnostics, treatment and prevention, including EUR 90 million through the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a partnership between the EU and the pharmaceutical industry.

- The remaining EUR 3 million was allocated to the EU Civil Protection Mechanism for repatriation flights of EU citizens from Wuhan, China.  

Health workers, but also many other workers essential for our societies, are doing an outstanding and heroic job and are saving countless lives. And yet many conflicts are still ongoing and threatening to further aggravate the death toll of this terrible disease. Again the most vulnerable pay the price. That’s why the EU strongly supports the call by the Secretary General for an immediate global ceasefire so that the human family is able to fight this disease swiftly, effectively and in a joint manner

This crisis is unlike any the UN has seen in its 75 years of existence. This tragic moment coincides with the anniversary of the UN. Our citizens are looking at the UN for initiating response to such very global challenges. 

Let me underline the importance of the global humanitarian response plan announced on Wednesday by the Secretary General and UN agencies. In addition to the EU's contribution, EU Member States are also putting forward significant additional support across the globe and we call on all to generously support this plan and other initiatives. It will be of huge importance that all efforts are coherent and well-coordinated to maximise efficiency and impact. In that regard we need to ensure the complementarity between the humanitarian efforts, preparedness and our work towards achieving the SDGs. 

We thank the President of the General Assembly for his proposal on a procedure providing for the adoption of resolutions by the General Assembly in these exceptional circumstances. At this difficult time, the only assembly representing all peoples of the world is more important than ever. The tools of 2020 must allow this institution to carry out its duties in a rational manner by adopting temporary and transparent procedures adapted to this exceptional situation.

We would also like to praise the President of ECOSOC and her team for the professionalism and transparency they have demonstrated, in these challenging circumstances, including by keeping Member States duly informed and consulted to the extent possible regarding the work of the ECOSOC Bureau.

The EU fully supports the Secretary General's leadership in mobilizing a joint, coordinated response to this unprecedented challenge. EU leaders in the both G7 and G20 meetings this week have committed our contribution to an exceptional wave of international solidarity from medical assistance to economic and social relief. We are also ready to consider the Secretary General's proposals for strengthening global governance and the way we work at the UN to address, collectively, the major challenges of our times.

In fighting the virus the EU calls upon governments to take proportional measures and actions to curtail the threat of the virus while upholding international standards on human rights, and to make sure these measures are free from discrimination and stigmatization.

This is a challenge of a historic dimension, and a test for the ability of the multilateral system to deliver. This can also be a chance to show that mankind can overcome daily discrepancies and focus on the most urgent. The EU and its Member States stand ready to contribute their part.

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