Opening address by President von der Leyen at the Global Health Summit

(Source: European Commission)

Thank you very much, Mario.

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to all of you.

Excellencies, dear friends,

Honourable leaders of the G20,

Distinguished guests and esteemed representatives,

We have many international and multilateral organisations here. You are here with us today. Welcome to the Global Health Summit. It is an honour and it is a privilege to chair this meeting with my dear friend Prime Minister Draghi.

Indeed, one year ago, Italy was the epicentre of the pandemic. We saw the virus raging. We saw the despair on the faces of doctors and nurses, but also acts of enormous solidarity within communities and between communities .

The world was caught off guard by COVID-19. Today, one year later, we are gathering to open a new chapter – a new chapter in the history of global public health. The Rome Declaration must send a clear message to everyone throughout the world. We must unite both to end this pandemic and to prevent and prepare for future health emergencies.

And therefore, this is the very first time that we come together specifically on health. And we must make sure, together, that this is the last global pandemic. This must be the goal of the Rome Declaration: That we are better prepared and that we uphold the principles of equity and good governance by giving our health and care workers the ability and the resources they need to take care of us. By making sure that we do not succumb to health nationalism, that we keep supply chains open and that we use all available tools to support access to vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and other medical supplies. By building our preparedness and response on science and evidence, we will move forward; by continuing to pay attention to global health after the crisis has passed – this is difficult. And by establishing sustainable finance mechanisms to really support it.

But first, we must act now to bring the pandemic under control all over the world. Not just in some countries or regions, but everywhere. We now have safe and effective vaccines. And this was possible thanks to the investment that we have made in this and the last year, both individually through advance purchase investments and through the new multilateral initiatives we created – the ACT-Accelerator and COVAX.

But the gap between high- and low-income countries remains too wide. So here is our first goal today: Let us give a boost to the vaccination campaign in low- and middle-income countries with practical and measurable actions.

First, we must allow for the export of vaccine doses to the rest of the world, and maintain open supply chains. As Mario said, 50% of the European production has been exported to 90 countries, COVAX included. And Europe commits to continue doing that – in the spirit of equity and solidarity, but also in the spirit of safety for all of us.

Second, I am delighted to inform you that in the Pre-Summit our industrial partners in Europe committed themselves. 1.3 billion doses of vaccine will be delivered until the end of this year to low-income countries at no-profit and to middle-income countries at lower prices. On top of this, our industrial partners committed to over 1.3 billion doses more for 2022 – many of which will be delivered through COVAX. So thank you very much for that.

Third, preventing future health emergencies means strengthening capacities throughout the world. Today, Africa imports 99% of its vaccines. This has to change. Therefore, Team Europe is launching an initiative with African partners to develop vaccine production in Africa. The initiative will develop a number of regional hubs distributed across the continent and it will draw on the full toolbox of Team Europe, including EUR 1 billion of investment.

Now, the Global Health Summit is at a starting point. Indeed, we will certainly also discuss the topic of TRIPS and intellectual property, as Mario mentioned. We all know, voluntary licensing is the best way to ensure the necessary transfer of technology and know-how together with IP rights. But the existing TRIPS Agreement and the 2001 Doha Declaration already today foresee compulsory licensing as a perfectly legitimate tool for governments to use it in a crisis. And this will be reaffirmed today. But I have been also listening very carefully to developing countries – we had just the Summit in France a few days ago – who are complaining about how difficult it is to use these flexibilities.

And I think this is something where the global community has to act to provide security and predictability. The European Union will therefore come forward with a proposal in WTO in early June to offer a third way in support of the Director-General of the WTO Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The beginning of a common path for the G20 is today. And the Rome Declaration is the first important milestone of this journey.

Thank you very much for being with us.

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