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Protective masks are loaded in Lyon. Destination: Bangui, Central African Republic. © European Union 2020
The pandemic of the new coronavirus will have dramatic consequences worldwide. It affects not only the health, but also the income of many millions of people. Such a crisis on a global scale therefore requires a rapid, massive and well-coordinated global response, the EU believes. ‘It is time for international solidarity and leadership, not isolation. For more international cooperation, not less.’
This is why the EU, as the world's largest donor, wants to help take on this leadership. Not only is it doing all it can to combat the coronavirus crisis in Europe, it also wants to show solidarity with the rest of the world. All in all, this is also in the interests of the EU itself. ‘The battle to defeat the virus internally can only be successful if we can contain the virus worldwide,’ it says.
Of course, the EU does not take up this leadership alone, but within the framework of the United Nations, the G7, the G20, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the international financial institutions, including the World Bank.
The EU is bringing its corona response together under the moniker of "Team Europe". This would include all contributions from the EU Member States as well as from the (financial) institutions of the EU, in particular the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). In this way, Team Europe has so far reached a significant critical mass of 36 billion euros.
With its aid package, the EU is focusing on the most vulnerable in countries with a health sector in need, on all continents. Much attention is paid to migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons, but also to women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
In its actions, the EU will not lose sight of the fundamental values and principles of its open and democratic societies: good governance, the rule of law, human rights, decent work, equal opportunities for all, etc. It aims to be transparent and based on facts, in order to avoid disinformation.
Moreover, the actions will be fully in line with the European Green Deal (climate and environment) and the Digital Agenda. According to the EU, the coronavirus crisis shows that full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement are crucial for making the world resilient to future shocks.
Team Europe sets out 3 priorities.
1. Urgent emergency aid
The EU aims to provide protective equipment such as face masks and gloves, especially for carers. There will be particular regard for displaced persons, refugees and migrants, especially those living in camps or other densely populated areas. It will also meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable: food, as well as health services and sexual and reproductive health.
- Ethiopia received €10 million to equip laboratories with diagnostic equipment and testing kits, as well as to build more treatment centres.
- The Western Balkans (Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, etc.) received €38 million for, among other things, medical equipment: hospital beds, fully equipped ambulances, hundreds of respirators, tens of thousands of testing kits and so on.
- Team Europe donated €9 million to Venezuela and countries in the region to improve access to healthcare and to give vulnerable groups, including refugees, access to sanitation.
Ghana: laboratory staff examines corona samples in a truck equipped as a laboratory, donated by the EU. © European Union 2020
2. Research, water and health
Hygiene is crucial in containing the pandemic. This is why Team Europe is providing sanitary facilities and soap, including for schools, markets and health centres. Health services and social protection must be strengthened. Team Europe also aims to provide protective equipment for healthcare workers. But research is also essential to enable effective treatment and diagnosis, which, moreover, must be universally accessible.
- Sudan received €10 million to make clean water and hygiene more accessible and to educate people about the virus.
- Team Europe is donating €6 million to Iran to strengthen its health sector: procurement of medicines, training for health personnel, awareness-raising campaigns on personal hygiene and sanitation, etc.
3. Social and economic recovery
The EU wants to avoid the serious social and economic consequences leading to destabilisation. Unemployment and poverty will increase enormously. This is why Team Europe will support measures for economic and social stabilisation. These could be cheaper loans, rearranging the repayment schedule for loans, tax deferrals, etc. To that end, it will temporarily support the national authorities, but the private sector – especially SMEs and the self-employed – will not be forgotten.
- Sierra Leone will receive €34.7 million in order to feed the national coffers, among other things, and thus be able to take social measures. Another portion will be used to protect the incomes of the most vulnerable. Agriculture will also receive support to boost food production.
- Team Europe is mobilising €374.5 million to support the most affected sectors in the Western Balkans, including tourism and transport.
Along with its partners, Team Europe will also do its utmost to nourish the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board. This body was established in 2017 to better prepare the world for health crises. Today, €7.5 billion is needed to develop diagnostic kits, treatments and vaccines and to provide protective equipment for health workers. The amount should also allow the World Health Organisation (WHO) to better assist the most vulnerable countries.
Belgium is also joining Team Europe. For example, our country is making considerable efforts to redirect its development cooperation and humanitarian aid towards the fight against the pandemic.