EU's Ursula von der Leyen wants billions for COVID-19 vaccine, meds

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Deutsche Welle | Europe


A global fundraiser should secure €7.5 billion and this is "just the start," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told DW. She said the eventual treatment should be sold at a "fair and affordable price."

The EU and several other global organizations are set to host a "worldwide pledging marathon" aimed at securing billions for a medical response against the ongoing pandemic. Speaking to DW on Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the world needed to act together in order to ensure everyone can have access to a vaccine against COVID-19.

"And we can only defeat that virus with a vaccine," she told DW News.

"We have to build up capacities to manufacture it, zillions of doses, and then we have to make sure that we can deploy to every corner in the world at a fair and affordable price," the Commission chief added.

Read more: The European Union's €1 trillion coronavirus question

More money to come

The fundraising event, dubbed "Coronavirus Global Response", was organized after a call to action from the World Health Organization, the World Bank and other non-official actors, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The drive is set to start on Monday. It would be hosted by the EU alongside France, Germany, the UK, Norway, and Saudi Arabia.

Talking to DW, von der Leyen said they were hoping to raise  €7.5 billion ($8.2 billion). "This is just the start," she added. "I think we will need more over time."

Warning for leaders who overstep powers

When asked about the EU's economic woes, the European Commission president said the bloc needed something comparable to the Marshal Plan, which helped revive the European economy after WWII. This "big recovery instrument" would offer a balance of "loans and grants," she said. However, she did not directly address the issue of the so-called "corona bonds" — a joint borrowing scheme pushed by the less wealthy members of the eurozone.

Von der Leyen also commented on the emergency powers claimed by the government of Hungary and other EU nations amid the pandemic. While such steps are justified in a crisis, she said the extra powers need to be time-limited, proportionate, and under democratic scrutiny.

"So we stand ready to intervene immediately if this is not appropriate and time-limited," she added.

Read more: Coronavirus: EU apologizes to Italy for initial response

Lessons of the pandemic

Von der Leyen also noted lessons provided by the global outbreak, such as the need for a better warning system in the EU and across the world, and the need to boost healthcare systems.

Finally, Brussels should be able to "buy critical medical goods like personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves or ventilators, buy them, stockpile, and distribute to those member states who need it."

"This was not in place at the beginning of the crisis. We put it in place now and we will certainly have a very close look at it," said Von der Leyen.

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