Coronavirus: Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell following the EU Leaders’ video conference
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Yesterday, I participated at the European Council meeting. It was a long and intense discussion among European leaders, after which we passed a very clear message: that the European Union and its Member States will do everything they can, everything necessary to overcome the coronavirus crisis.
We will do it together, in solidarity and for the benefit and protection of our citizens.
For that, we are taking measure, measures needed first to limit the spread of the virus and to provide urgent assistance to those in need.
In the case of the European external action, this is devoted to our citizens stranded in third countries to return home. This is an absolute priority. There are more than 400 000 people that want to go back home. More than 150 000 have already done it thanks to the air flights that have been organised by the Member States and more than 2 000 by the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism used for the extreme cases when there is no commercial or chartered flights. We have a Task Force here, in the European External Action Service, which is working around the clock to assist Member States. We are reaching out to third countries: organizing repatriation flights, ensuring landing rights and access to airspace, as well as transit access and extension of visas when needed. There is a big problem today with the access to the airspace. Many countries are closing it and we have to ask them to provide an extension of these closings in order to allow many more flights to take people back home.
We need to limit the spread of the virus, to promote research - so that we can quickly find a vaccine that will be for the benefit of the entire world. Here, cooperation is much more needed than competition. Also, we have to tackle socio-economic consequences this crisis has created and most urgently, to ensure the provision of medical equipment. The Commission, in cooperation with industry, will provide an overview of stocks, production and imports and take action to improve the situation. We will also actively pursue the joint procurement initiatives and increase the initial budget for the strategic rescEU stockpile of medical equipment, especially for intensive care, vaccines and therapeutics.
In parallel, Member States are also supporting each other. For example, France, Germany and Austria together are sending 3.5 million masks 800 000 protection dresses to Italy. Some Member States are taking care of each other’s patients to ensure hospital capacity [for all].Of course, solidarity and support from our partners around the word is welcome, because solidarity and international cooperation are at the heart of our collective success.
We will continue working hand in hand with our partners around the world to this end. In Europe we are very grateful for all genuine offers of help coming from partner countries from all the world or from the private sector, whether in the provision of masks or other medical equipment. What is important is that the people in need receive the necessary help.
We are promoting coordination in multilateral fora, in the G7 and in the G20. We are working with United Nations and its agencies, and with the Red Cross. We have mobilised €300 million to support partners in combating the virus around the world, channeling this help through the World Health Organization for example or the Institut Pasteur in Dakar. We are looking in particular at Africa because we want to underline that we will not forget about our sister continent when addressing this global pandemic. We cannot look only at the problems in Europe because the problems in other regions will be, sooner or later, also our own problems. That’s why we must act collectively at the global level.
The European Union is playing its role and doing everything possible to tackle this crisis and its consequences. It is now that we have to demonstrate what European and global solidarity really means. Solidarity cannot be just a word that we use without any kind of commitment. Solidarity has to be proven by facts. President von der Leyen rightly said that History is looking at us and that Europe needs to act with one big heart rather than with 27 different ones. Globally, these unprecedented events call for unprecedented international action to master this crisis that we are going face and win jointly.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-187499