The fight against the corona pandemic has made Europe work more closely together. It has led the European vaccine programme to be on track. Thats what Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said in her annual speech to the European Parliament.
According to Von der Leyen, the difficult year demonstrates the importance of close European cooperation. “We did it as one Europe.”
The President of the Commission received applause when she listed what has been achieved in the past year. More than 70 percent of adults in Europe have had their first vaccination. But the differences between Member States are large and that needs to change, says Von der Leyen. “It shouldnt be a pandemic for the unvaccinated.”
“We were also the only one who shared half of our vaccines with the rest of the world,” said Von der Leyen. The European Commission intends to invest another EUR 1 billion in vaccine production for Africa in the coming time. But especially in European healthcare and the fight against pandemic, the Commission wants to invest billions in the coming years.
European cooperation has not only been strengthened by the corona pandemic. According to Von der Leyen, the fight against climate change has also led EU countries to join forces. The European climate plan gave them a perfect example of that closer cooperation.
But cooperation needs to be done with other countries as well. A global climate summit will be held in Scotland this fall. The Commission therefore hopes to see concrete measures from other countries to meet the climate targets. “Its time to show results. We dont have time to wait.”
The president called on the countries to cooperate more now. “Its time to take action and take the EU to the next level.” In the coming time, the Commission wants countries to share more with each other at defence level. She even spoke of a European Defence Union. A European army has been spoken for years, but few countries want it. “What has stopped us so far is the lack of political will.”
Speed up with migration plan
Concerns from some of the EU countries about a potentially large group of Afghan refugees seeking asylum are also putting the issue of migration high on the agenda. The EU must keep returning refugees who are entitled to asylum, but continue to return migrants who do not have it, Von der Leyen stressed.
A year ago, the Commission presented a European Migration Plan, but the Member States have not yet approved it. “Progress on this file has been painfully slow over the past year,” said Von der Leyen. “I call on Member States to speed up now.”