Speech by President von der Leyen at the European Parliament Plenary on the conclusions of the special meeting of the European Council of 24-25 May 2021 and preparation of the G7 Summit of 11-13 June 2021 and the EU-U.S. Summit

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Dear President Sassoli, 

Honourable Members,

Yesterday we discussed how Europe can come out of the pandemic stronger than before. Today, I would like to give you an overview of the next steps we are taking at global level to finally leave this crisis behind us.

I especially want to inform you of some of the outcomes of our G20 Summit on health in Rome and the special meeting of the European Council a few days later. And I would like to mention the initiatives we are planning with our friends at the G7 later this week in Cornwall and next Tuesday, when Charles Michel and I will be hosting U.S. President Joe Biden in Brussels.

These meetings not only underline the multilateral approach, which the European Union has been taking since the start of this pandemic. They are also the perfect opportunity to show that our revived transatlantic alliance is able to deliver for citizens – both in the U.S. and in Europe.

Our immediate focus is on beating COVID-19. Everywhere. Ending the pandemic is the most important precondition for building back our economies. We want to ensure that all countries across the globe have equal and fair access to vaccines. This is why Mario Draghi and I convened the G20 Global Health Summit.

In their Rome Declaration, leaders gave a strong signal: They committed to boosting production capacity in low- and middle-income countries, to tackling bottlenecks in supply chains, a ‘plaidoyer’ for seamless flows of vaccines and components – and they committed to investing in a global surveillance and early warning system.

But in the short term, the dominant topic is vaccine supply in low- and middle-income countries. There are three strands: First, COVAX. With EUR 3 billion, Team Europe is one of the largest donors to COVAX. On top, Team Europe pledged to donate at least 100 million doses by the end of the year. Second, we want to engage the private sector more: At the Health Summit, our industrial partners committed to delivering 1.3 billion doses by the end of the year, non-profit for low-income countries and at low costs for middle-income countries.

And the third pillar is export of vaccines. Europe has proven that it is possible to vaccinate your own population and to allow exports. Since January, we have been exporting almost half of our production. Out of 600 million doses produced in Europe, until now round about 300 million have been exported to over 90 countries. If all the other vaccine producers had followed our example, the world today would be a different place.

In the course of this discussion, the question of the TRIPS Agreement has been raised recently. When the U.S. administration put forward their thoughts, we said, we were open for discussion. Now just four weeks later, we put forward a new global trade initiative at the WTO aiming to deliver more equitable access to vaccines and therapeutics.

This initiative has three elements. First, we want to keep supply chains open and eliminate export restrictions for vaccines and for all the inputs necessary to manufacture them. Secondly, we want to help ramp up production – not only in Europe, but also in Africa. And finally, we want to ensure the necessary transfer of technology and know-how in emergencies.

Let me be very clear: intellectual property has to be protected. And voluntary licences are the most effective way to facilitate expanding production. At the GHS in Rome, G20 leaders reaffirmed this assessment. However, in a global emergency like a pandemic, compulsory licencing can be a legitimate tool to scale up production where voluntary cooperation fails. This is why, together with the WTO, we want to clarify and simplify the use of compulsory licences in times of national emergencies. This proposal has been discussed yesterday. We know that time is of the essence.

The G7 meeting will provide a good opportunity to reaffirm our commitments and to go even further. At the G7, we will also be discussing the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, in particular on some of the poorest countries on earth. Because our recovery has to work for everyone. According to the United Nations, there are currently more than 34 million people on the brink of famine. We must reverse this trend, reinforcing global food systems.

That is why the EU, at the G7, will commit to a new humanitarian aid package of EUR 250 million to tackle hunger. For example, we want to donate almost EUR 50 million to countries in the Sahel region and in East Africa. Regions hit hard by the economic impact of the pandemic and by climate change.

Droughts, flooding, extreme weather events – we all know the pattern. Climate change is happening, and the science is clear: There is no time to lose. That is why, despite the pandemic, Europe has chosen to speed up its ecological transition by adopting a sustainable recovery plan. We cannot act soon enough or set our sights high enough, because even global warming limited to 1.5 degrees would have serious consequences, in particular in the least developed parts of the world.

This is why now words must be followed by tangible action across all sectors of our economies and societies. In July, the Commission will present its ‘Fit for 55′ Package. And I am glad that at the special meeting of the European Council at the end of May, Heads of State or Government, in a first discussion on the Package, showed broad support. Because Europe wants to lead the way in this transition towards an economy that gives more to the planet than it takes from it.

Now we want to broker the same ambition on a global level: Clear commitments, followed by equally clear action. In particular, an alignment with the G7 and the United States would be very welcome. With the U.S., we will not only grow our common trade and investment relationship in support of the green and digital transformation of our economies.

Together we will also engage with our international partners for a shared commitment and joint action to reduce emissions by 2030 and to become climate-neutral economies by 2050. In this way, we hope to achieve the most ambitious possible outcome at the COP26 in Glasgow and at the conference on Biological Diversity in Kunming.

Honourable Members,

This is the ambition we want to bring to the table when we meet with our partners and friends from all over the world. I know that you, in the European Parliament, share this ambition. Because we all want to end this pandemic and we all want to bequeath a healthy planet to future generations.

Long live Europe!

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