EU chief executive warns against ‘non-vaccination epidemic’

EU Commission President von der Leyen speaks at European Parliament in Strasbourg
EU Commission President von der Leyen speaks at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a speech during a debate on the “State of the European Union” at the European Parliament on September 15, 2021 in Strasbourg, France. Reuters/Yves Hermann

September 15, 2021

by Yves Herman and Gabriela Baczynsk

Strasbourg, France (Reuters) – The pace of vaccination against COVID-19 should be accelerated to prevent a “non-vaccine pandemic”, as well as climate change from countries around the world, the European Union’s chief executive said on Wednesday. urged to intensify the fight against Change.

Ursula von der Leyen’s second ‘state of the union’ address comes two years after taking over as president of the European Commission, which has dealt with the bloc’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, a sharp economic downturn, tensions over Brexit and the rule of law. Flexibility tested. Eastern Member States.

In a broad-brush speech setting out the bloc’s priorities for the coming year, von der Leyen also listed ambitious goals for the EU, including technological independence, but warned “the next year will be another test of character.” “

At the end of August, 70% of the adult population in the European Union of 27 countries was fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It marked a milestone after a slow start, but also hid major differences between EU countries.

Announcing a new donation of a further 200 million vaccine doses by the middle of next year to third countries – on top of a previous commitment for 250 million jabs – von der Leyen said he would like to spread the vaccine among EU member states. There were also concerns about the variation in rates.

“Let’s do everything possible (so that) it doesn’t turn into a pandemic without vaccination,” he told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France.

‘Further and faster’ on climate

The former German defense minister has put tackling climate change at the top of his agenda with the digital transformation of its economy, along with bold steps to achieve climate neutrality for the European Union by 2050.

Von der Leyen said the EU would double its international funding to protect nature and halt the decline in the world’s biodiversity, adding: “My message today is that Europe is ready to do more. “

“This is a generation with a conscience, they are inspiring us to move further and faster in tackling the climate crisis,” she said.

She said the EU would increase its financial aid to help poorer countries fight climate change and adapt to its effects, announcing plans for an additional 4 billion euros by 2027.

With global chip shortages causing a major delay in manufacturing activity and forcing many automakers to cut production, von der Leyen said the bloc should create a cutting-edge European chip ecosystem, including production.

“Digital is the make-or-break issue,” she said.

The economies of nineteen EU member states will return to pre-pandemic levels this year, with others after next year, she said.

Von der Leyen, wearing a mask with an encirclement of the EU flag of 12 gold stars, greeted MPs in the assembly before his speech.

Critics say she has fallen short of promises to make the commission more “geopolitical” as the EU struggles to assert its influence in foreign affairs.

(Reporting by Jan Stroopsewczki, Marine Strauss, Gabriela Baczynska, Phil Blenkinsop, Yves Hermann, Fu Yun Chi, Writing by Ingrid Melander, Editing by John Chalmers)

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