EU to prioritize global vaccination, von der Leyen says in State of EU address | News | DW | 15.09.2021

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EU to prioritize global vaccination, von der Leyen says in State of EU address

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU's vaccination drive was done "the right way" and vowed to donate 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to low-income countries.

Watch video 02:22

EU pledges to donate 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave her annual State of the European Union address to the European Parliament on Wednesday, where she said the coming year would be "another test of character for the EU."

Her speech addressed the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, steps the EU took to slow the spread of the virus and the bloc's future plans for vaccinations.

"In the biggest global health crisis we chose to go it together," von der Leyen said, adding that 70% of Europe's adult population was fully vaccinated.

Von der Leyen said Europe was the only region to share its vaccine stock with other countries and pledged an additional 200 million doses to low-income countries.

 "I can announce today that the [European] Commission will add a new donation of another 200 million doses until the middle of next year. This is an investment in solidarity, and it is an investment also in global health," she said.

DW Brussels Bureau Chief Alexandra von Nahmen highlighted the positive message in this year's State of the Union, looking back more than a year since the pandemic.

"She stressed that 'we did it together' as one Europe, that the European Union is in a much better place than it was last year," von Nahmen said.

Pandemic is 'a marathon, not a sprint'

Von der Leyen's speech comes as EU nations are still grappling with a lingering coronavirus pandemic, that she said is still causing a lot of grief.

But the Commission president stressed that the pace of vaccination against COVID-19 must be quickened across the globe.

"Let's make sure that it does not turn into a pandemic of the non-vaccinated," she told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France.

She recognized the economic disparity between economically advanced countries and poorer nations: "With less than 1% of global doses administered in low-income countries, the scale of injustice and the level of urgency is obvious."

A new climate pledge 

The EU Commission president dedicated much of her speech to climate change and the importance of Europe's youth.

She referred to climate change as "the greatest planetary crisis" and praised the EU for being united behind the European green deal. 

"Our youth put meaning into empathy and solidarity, they believe we have a responsibility towards the planet," von der Leyen said. 

She said the bloc would continue to invest in solving the crisis. "We will now propose an additional €4 billion ($4.7 billion) for climate finance until 2027." 

EU to boost aid to Afghanistan 

A new, wider Afghan support package to be unveiled in the coming weeks, von der Leyen said. The EU will step up its jointly financed humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan by a further €100 million euros. 

Von der Leyen also said that the turmoil in the Central Asian nation highlights the need for better European defense cooperation.  

She announced a "summit on European defense" with President Emmanuel Macron during France's six-month European Council presidency at the beginning of next year. 

"Witnessing events unfold in Afghanistan was profoundly painful for the families and friends of fallen servicemen and servicewomen," von der Leyen said. 

"We have to reflect on how this mission could end so abruptly. There are deeply troubling questions that allies will have to tackle within NATO. But there's simply no security and defense issue where less cooperation is the answer," she added. 

jcg/sms (dpa, AFP)

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