The European Union has been at the forefront of international cooperation to defeat “the same common enemy”, COVID-19, the President of the European Council, told the UN General Assembly on Friday.
“In the European Union (EU), more than 142,000 people have lost their lives”, Charles Michel said in a pre-recorded video address to the Assembly’s annual debate, being held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He saluted their memory, and paid tribute to “all the healthcare professionals that have safeguarded the fabric of our societies”.
The President informed the plenary that the EU had raised nearly €16 billion to conduct research and deploy vaccines, tests and treatments and are working to ensure universal accessibility and affordability.
Levelling the playing field
According to Mr. Michel, the pandemic has increased Europe’s determination to transform economies and societies “tenfold”.
Moreover, the President stated access to the bloc’s economic zone – second largest in the world and first in terms of international trade – “will no longer be sold off”.
“From now on, we will better enforce the level playing field, in a market open to those who respect its standards”, he asserted. “Whether they leave our Union or want to move closer to it”.
And Mr. Michel stressed that the EU is also committed to advancing overall tax fairness, particularly in the digital sector.
“Large-scale activities carried out in this area can no longer escape fair taxation”, he spelled out, pledging alliance alongside the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G20 richest nations, “to international cooperation to correct this injustice”.
When asked if the EU favoured the United States or China, the President said, “we stand on the side of the fundamental values of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and cooperation”.
“The EU shares ideals, values and a mutual affection that have been strengthened through the trials of history” with the US, but “this does not prevent us from occasionally having divergent approaches or interests”, he elaborated.
Mr. Michel underscored that the EU is “an autonomous force”, that steers its own destiny.
He said that the EU does not share the values on which China’s political and economic system are based, and “will not stop promoting respect for universal human rights, including those of minorities, such as the Uighurs”.
However, the President maintained that China is a crucial partner in global warming, Covid-19, debt relief in Africa and trade.
“Yet we are determined to rebalance this relationship towards greater reciprocity and fairer competition”, he flagged.
In closing Mr. Michel assured that the EU’s support for the UN remains as “strong as ever”, saying Europe “will be at your side to make the world a better and fairer place to live”.
Full statement available here.