Team Europe rebuilds better together

We cannot return to the pre-COVID world as it was.

People sit in the sun on a lawn of the Jardin du Luxembourg park in Paris.People sit in the sun on a lawn of the Jardin du Luxembourg park in Paris. (Source: AP/SITA)

Ingrid Brocková is State Secretary responsible for development cooperation, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic

Jutta Urpilainen is European Commissioner for International Partnerships, European Commission

Each and every one of us all around the world has felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus continues to pose a threat to global public health. The socio-economic crisis, brought on by weeks of lockdown, has caused a trail of devastation, with many people missing out on pay cheques, struggling to put food on the table and being unsafe in their home.

Existing problems in sharper focus

One thing that the crisis – as an x-ray – has revealed is that some people are suffering much more than others. Inequality, which was already plaguing our societies, has never been more apparent. For many of our partner countries in our immediate neighbourhood in the Eastern Partnership and the Western Balkans, as well as in Africa, Latin America and Asia, COVID-19 has brought existing problems into sharper focus. Health, water and sanitation systems are under increased pressure, and rising unemployment, especially amongst youth, has exposed already fragile social security systems.

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As we navigate the exit and the recovery of this global crisis, we must turn to solidarity, international partnerships and cooperation to find answers. Helping our partners cope with the fall-out of the pandemic is not just the right thing to do. It is also in Europe’s best interest. Our interdependence has never been clearer.

This is why the EU and its Member States, acting as “Team Europe”, have invested nearly €36 billion, with the support of Slovakia in the amount of €10 million, to address the needs of the most vulnerable around the world, including migrants, refugees, internally displaced populations and their host communities. Shortly after the COVID-19 crisis became a pandemic, Brussels and other European capitals took swift coordinated action to help our partners: from supporting food self-sufficiency in Kenya, reinforcing health care in Ukraine or Moldova, to mitigating negative economic impact of pandemic in Georgia and funding prevention measures in Serbia.

EU assistance is helping communities across the world come to terms with the pandemic. We are ready to mobilise available innovative solutions and products developed by our researchers, the private sector or civil society and share them with our partners via an EU-wide portal. After all, stronger partners make a stronger Europe.

Vaccine tops agenda

Our mission is to leave no one behind. Developing a vaccine as soon as possible, which is affordable and accessible for all, is on top of our agenda. At the pledging conference in early May hosted by President von der Leyen, €9.8 billion were raised, including a Slovak contribution of €750,000, for the development of rapid diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. Yet again another great example of what we can achieve together as a global community.

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When it comes to recovery and the post-COVID world however, let us also be honest. We cannot return to the pre-COVID world as it was. Neither can our partners who are amongst those most affected by the climate emergency, rising inequality, seback in human development and the digital divide. As we begin the hard task of rebuilding our economies and societies, in the words of UN Secretary General António Gutteres, this is our opportunity to “rebuild better”.

When the next generation looks back at this moment, we want them to say that their parents pressed ahead, harnessing all the opportunities of the green and digital transitions, to build a better future for them and a more sustainable, fair and inclusive world for all.

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