Vaccination is not a race between countries but a race against time

Team Europe has become a part of our external action toolbox when it comes to supporting third countries.

(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

A bit more than a year ago, on April 8, 2020, we launched our Team Europe global response to Covid-19. As soon as the pandemic was declared, all major European development actors decided to come together in the understanding that as long as we are not all safe, no one is safe.

In such a grave moment, we agreed that scale, coordination and focus were needed to assist our partner countries with maximum impact. EU Institutions, Member States, their implementing agencies and European Development Finance Institutions combined resources, ways of working, expertise and tools. Team Europe was born.

In one year, Team Europe, the collective global recovery package brought together to help partners address the COVID-19 pandemic has reached over €40 billion. percent of this amount has already been disbursed in support of the immediate needs: health, water, sanitation and nutrition systems, as well as tackling the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.

Part of the fabric of our external action toolbox

This work is more than numbers or sentences on the paper. It is real impact in the lives of millions.

The Slovak Republic has substantially contributed to the Team Europe approach. Out of almost €12 million committed the Slovak Republic already spent €4,45 million to support partner countries in facing the multifaceted impact of the pandemic.. The biggest part – €1,52 million - has been channelled to the European Neighbourhood. €0,85 million were spent in the Western Balkans and €1,4 million went to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Our new concept has delivered. Actually, Team Europe has already become part of the fabric of our external action toolbox when it comes to supporting third countries by joining our individual strenghts and working better together. It is now being mainstreamed in the programming of our 2021-2027 budget for external action.

Flagship Team Europe Initiatives which will bring together our collective efforts have the potential to significantly boost our political engagement.

Driving international partnerships and recovery

Obviously, Team Europe is instrumental to meet the ambition of a renewed and stronger Africa-EU Partnership. We have started to deploy this approach on the continent with significant impact. In Kenya, Team Europe has mobilised € 502 million to support the national Covid response plan.

Shortly after the Covid-19 crisis became a pandemic, Slovakia sent over five tons of protective and medical aid supplies to the people of its partner countries such as Kenya, Lebanon, Ukraine or North Macedonia to help stop the spread of new coronavirus. In line with the Team Europe approach, Slovakia has actively reacted to the urgent calls of its partners.

In Mali, the EU supports the fight against Covid-19 with up to €136 million, covering humanitarian, health and socio-economic needs. At continental level, Team Europe will support the African flagship initiatives on digitalisation, the Continental Free Trade Area climate change and sustainable energy.

Team Europe is at the service of a sustainable global recovery, which decisively puts young people in the driving seat. Our Global Recovery Initiative links investment and debt relief to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and building back better.

Vaccination is not a race between countries

Right now, the urgent issue is of course vaccination. It is not a race between countries but a race against time. We face a common enemy. And, we need to vaccinate everyone. It is both the right and the wise thing to do right now.

It is prerequisite to returning to the new normal. Team Europe is leading investment in the global COVAX Facility and we are establishing a coordinated European approach to vaccine sharing by setting up an EU Vaccine Sharing Mechanism to help partner countries overcome the pandemic.

The European approach to vaccine sharing will help neighbouring and partner countries overcome the pandemic and comes on top of the close to €3 billion EU investment from Team Europe (Commission, Member States and EIB) in COVAX.

So, one year of Team Europe is behind us and plenty still to come. At this stage, we have not taken baby steps, but giant leaps in the way we work and make impact together. We have every reason to continue and to expand this also to other areas of cooperation. Because, even though Team Europe was born out of darkness and despair, it has great potential to shed light for our future generations – a light that reminds us that we achieve more and better together, leaving no one behind.

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