Speech of President von der Leyen at the “Conference on strengthening the role of the EU in Global Health”, organised by the Portuguese Presidency

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Thank you for your invitation, Minister Demido.

Thank you for organizing this global health conference.

Nelson Mandela once said: “In the global world, we are the protectors of our brothers and sisters, especially in the field of health.”

Corona infection confirmed how right he was. We can only bring the virus by involving our friends in other countries and continents. Otherwise, the virus will continue to spread and change. If we care about our health, then we should take care of others as well.

Health diplomacy is now at the heart of a modern foreign policy in Europe. From the early months of the pandemic, we worked to shape the European approach to health diplomacy.

It is based on two columns. First, the team game. Secondly, we are here for a long journey.

In the first phase: Instead of competing with others, Europe opted to form a global alliance. About a year ago, we partnered with WHO, other governments and charities. We have jointly developed ACT-Accelerator, a global initiative that helps all countries have access to testing, treatment and vaccines.

The most popular building block of this venture is Kovacs. We will need billions of vaccines by the end of this year to end the epidemic. We need these vaccines to reach low and middle income countries. This can only be achieved through a multi-disciplinary initiative like Kovacs.

Team Europe paid COVAX 2. 2.2 billion. We are happy that America has joined us. Kovacs is for everyone. Everyone can donate and everyone can benefit from it.

The second pillar of our health strategy is global expectations. We require more than one donation. We need to strengthen the capacity of the world for vaccine production and our collective preparedness against the health crisis.

This kind of work starts in Europe, where we work with pharmaceuticals / companies to strengthen vaccine production. It should not be forgotten that Europe is now the largest exporter of vaccines in the world.

We know, we are in it.

Because, we know: it wouldn’t help much if only those in Europe were vaccinated. Mutants from other countries and continents can destroy any progress – at any time. This is why our commitment crosses European borders. We are looking for solutions to increase vaccine production capacity within Africa. Europe’s next budget will invest in the capabilities of health systems around the world.

Further reassuring our partners is also of interest in Europe.

Let’s face it: The world is not ready for this imminent global epidemic. But we acted.

Last year, we were increasing the speed of R&D for the first time since we heard about COVID-19. We rapidly expanded our testing capabilities and were able to bring many vaccines to market. We did it at the time of registration. It is worth mentioning that.

But now we should move from this year’s provisional solution to a sustainable system. This will help manage and prevent future health crises. This is the aim of the Global Health Summit to be held in Italy on 21 May. At this summit, we will adopt policies that can guide our future responses.

The world already has some lessons to learn from this epidemic.

First: We have an obligation to manage local health hazards quickly and cohesively before turning them into global crises. This is because cross-border health hazards require cross-border cooperation.

Second: In all policies, we must embed evidence-based health. This means that all government departments including finance, civil society and the private sector should be involved. Together we need to invest enough in our readiness because it costs money.

These policies accelerated our response to the epidemic in Europe. I hope that we can form a broader alliance in this way.

This is how I see Europe’s role in global health. We strongly believe in cooperation. We are about to form an alliance. We are looking for a solution that will stand the test of time and leave nothing to anyone.

This is the European method of health diplomacy.

I wish all of you a very fruitful meeting.

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