Today, the European Commission has confirmed its interest to participate in the COVAX Facility for equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines everywhere, for everyone who needs them. As part of a Team Europe effort, the Commission is today also announcing a contribution of €400 million in guarantees to support COVAX and its objectives in the context of the Coronavirus Global Response.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “Global collaboration is the only way to overcome a global pandemic. Under the Coronavirus Global Response and the Global Goal Unite campaign, we have seen the world come together as one. Almost €16 billion have been pledged so far and the most talented researchers and organisations are pooling their efforts to deliver vaccines, tests and treatments, which will be our universal, common good. Today, the Commission is announcing a €400 million contribution to COVAX for working together in purchasing future vaccines to the benefit of low and middle income countries. I’m confident this will bring us closer to our goal: beating this virus, together.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “It is only by working together globally, in solidarity, that we can defeat the coronavirus. We need an inclusive international approach and as we are showing today, Team Europe – European Commission and EU Member States – is committed to ensuring the success of the COVAX Facility and facilitating access to a vaccine in an equitable manner for all people across the world.”
Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International partnerships, said: “Only by securing equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine across the world will we end the pandemic and ensure a sustainable recovery; working with our partner countries is crucial so that we can build back better and healthier.”
The COVAX Facility, co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO, aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
As part of a EU joint engagement (Commission, Member States and European financial institutions, notably EIB) to mobilise resources for the Coronavirus Global Response, the Commission intends to mobilise up to €400 million in guarantees to support COVAX and its underlying objectives as part of a Team Europe effort. The detailed terms and conditions for the EU’s participation and contribution will be worked out in the coming days and weeks. Team Europe is ready to put its expertise and resources at work within COVAX to accelerate and scale-up development and manufacturing of a global supply of vaccines for citizens across the world, in poor and rich countries.
The EU’s participation in COVAX will be complementary to the ongoing EU negotiations with vaccine companies that aim at scaling up manufacturing capacity of vaccine producers, contributing to global efforts.
The European Commission is committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine gets it, anywhere in the world and not only at home. No one will be safe until everyone is safe. This is why it immediately responded to the WHO’s call for action and has raised almost €16 billion since 4 May 2020 under the Coronavirus Global Response, the global action for universal access to tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus and for the global recovery.
As a milestone under the Coronavirus Global Response, the global action for universal access to affordable coronavirus vaccination, treatment and testing, The Global Goal: Unite for our Future campaign was launched by NGO Global Citizen on 28 May under the patronage of President Ursula von der Leyen.
On 4 May, the Commission also proposed a cooperation framework to align global efforts and accelerate progress in developing coronavirus vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics and strengthening health systems: the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT)-Accelerator.
Three partnerships, based on the three priorities of the Coronavirus Global Response, are at its core. They gather industry, research, foundations, regulators and international organisations to work together on all steps needed to deliver new tools and solutions, from research to manufacturing and deployment.
COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the ACT-Accelerator, a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access for all countries across the world to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
Co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO, COVAX was launched at the end of April 2020 at an event co-hosted by the Director-General of the World Health Organization, the President of France, the President of the European Commission, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Since then, the EU has been actively engaged with Gavi, CEPI and other participant countries in the setting up of COVAX governance and financial tools. The final terms of the EU’s participation following today’s expression of interest still need to be defined.
The COVAX Facility aims to purchase 2 billion doses by the end of 2021, by negotiating with a diversified portfolio of vaccine suppliers covering different scientific technologies, time delivery and prices. The COVAX Facility is an insurance mechanism which will reduce risk for manufacturers, concerned about investing without assured demand, and for countries, concerned about failing to secure access to a viable vaccine.
War games will take place off Durban between South Africa, China and Russia
South Africa’s government has finally shown its colours by inviting Russia and China for war games next month, London’s ‘Daily Mail’ writes with indignation and indignation.
SA President Cyril Ramaphosa has ditched his supposed ‘neutrality’ to the war by hosting the naval drills off the country’s east coast near Durban and Richards Bay from February 17 to 27. The move is the strongest indication yet of the strengthening relationship between South Africa, and the anti-West authoritarian regimes of China and Russia.
The drills will take place around the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and bring more focus on the refusal of South Africa – a leading voice on its continent – to side with the West and condemn Russia’s actions. The South African government said last year it had adopted a neutral stance over Ukraine and called for dialogue and diplomacy.
But the upcoming naval drills have led the country’s main opposition party to accuse the government of effectively siding with Russia.
But the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), which incorporates all of its armed forces, said next month’s naval exercise would ‘strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China’. The aim of the drills was ‘sharing operational skills and knowledge’, the SANDF said.
The three countries also conducted a similar naval exercise in 2019 in Cape Town, while Russia and China held joint naval drills in the East China Sea last month.
The United States and European Union had hoped South Africa would support the international condemnation of Russia and act as a leader for other nations in Africa. But, South Africa appealed to be one of several African countries to ‘abstain’ in a United Nations vote last year condemning Russia’s special military operation.
South Africa and Russia share a long history, after the Soviet Union gave support to the ANC in its fight to bring down apartheid, the regime of repression against the country’s black majority, writes London newspaper. (And we should remember, how the British destroyed the Boers’ Transvaal and the Orange Republic of the at the beginning of the 20th century, and planted the apartheid regime here).
Apartheid ended in 1994 when the ANC won the first democratic elections in South Africa and Nelson Mandela became president.
South Africa is also a member of BRICS, a bloc of emerging economies, alongside Brazil, Russia, India and China.
South Africa’s obligations with respect to sanctions relate only to those that are specifically adopted by the United Nations. Currently, there are no UN-imposed sanctions on the particular individual, they say in Pretoria.
Will South Korea build nuclear weapons?
Washington’s attempt to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are at a dead end. The nation is a nuclear state. Its arsenal is growing in both size and sophistication. Although Pyongyang will never be capable of staging a preemptive strike against the United States, it soon may be able to retaliate against Washington for defending South Korea, writes “Foreign Policy”.
The shifting balance has sparked a serious debate within the United States and South Korea over nuclear policy. The first question is whether it makes sense to pursue denuclearization — the famed CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement) — when the North already has the bomb. Although official Washington policy resolutely refuses to acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear state, reality may eventually force a policy retreat.
Even more significant, the South’s establishment wants to get its hands on, or at least close to, American nuclear weapons. Or, suggested South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, Seoul might develop its own. He suggested in a press conference last week that South Korea might develop its own nuclear weapon.
There has been a rolling debate in South Korea for about a year on its potential nuclearization. But that has been mostly limited to extra-governmental voices in think-tanks and academia. So it is genuinely surprising that this has already reached the presidential office.
Indeed, it speaks to just how threatening North Korea’s nuclear weapons are perceived in South Korea – and how unhelpful China has been in restraining Pyongyang – that no less than its president is now discussing this.
The South Korean fear is similar: in a spiraling crisis with North Korea, would its nuclear ICBMs compel the US to ‘slow-roll’ assistance for fear of crossing some retaliation threshold with North Korea? The answer is almost certainly ‘yes’, the author of the military portal ‘19fortyfive.com’ is convinced.
It is inconceivable now, in a nuclearized environment, that the US alliance commitment to South Korea is as automatic as it was in a conventional environment. Any US president will flinch at a course of action which might realistically incur a nuclear strike on US cities.
This new reality, since North Korea’s successful 2017 ICBM test, is only just sinking in. For a few years, it looked like former US President Donald Trump and former South President Moon Jae In might strike a deal with North Korea. That was always pretty far-fetched, but once it definitely fell apart by 2020, a South Korean nuclear debate was likely inevitable.
The debate on nuclearization in South Korea itself is culminating. South Korea public opinion is supportive. Nongovernmental opinion is tilting toward it. The country’s main conservative party has said South Korea should withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty if North Korea tests another, seventh, nuclear weapon. And now the South Korean president has broached the issue too.
The big hurdle then is the Americans. The US is South Korea’s only treaty ally and its core foreign relationship. Without American defense guarantees, South Korea’s defense spending would double or triple. So South Korean governments have traditionally given American preferences wide berth.
And indeed, the American response was to play down Yoon’s comments.
In fact, the North Korean nuclear and missile threat will only worsen as the regime tests more and more, and they certainly are not going to stop. The more North Korea can threaten US cities with massive destruction, the less credible US alliance guarantees will be.
Luckily, this problem is not new. America’s European allies faced it during the Cold War because the USSR could strike the US homeland, and a variety of responses, including nuclear sharing and indigenous nuclearization, were tried with reasonable success. The US has also adapted to Israeli, Indian, and Pakistani nuclearization without a massive crisis.
So South Korean nuclearization need not lead to an alliance rupture unless the US insists on it.
Jacinda Ardern resigned as New Zealand’s PM or was forcibly ousted from power?
Jacinda Ardern (photo) has insisted her decision to resign as New Zealand’s Prime Minister is because she ‘doesn’t have enough in the tank’ – but there is speculation as to whether she is actually running scared of an election mauling following a public outcry over her draconian Covid lockdowns.
Ms Ardern, 42, choked back tears as she announced she will step down after just over five years in power. She insisted her decision to step down had nothing to do with the fact her Labour Party is trailing in the polls behind its conservative rivals from the National Party ahead of the upcoming election in October.
Her policies sparked nationwide protests – one protest against vaccine mandates that began on Parliament’s grounds last year lasted for more than three weeks and ended with protesters hurling rocks at police and setting fires to tents and mattresses as they were forced to leave.
As a result of the public anger over Ms Ardern’s response to Covid – which included a border closure that lasted more than two years – and her domestic policies, she was facing tough reelection prospects. This has prompted speculation that the real reason she decided to quit was because she didn’t want to face a humiliating defeat in the elections.
Ms Ardern continued: ‘I am not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election but because I believe we can and will. But we need a fresh set of shoulders for the challenges of both this year and the next three.’
Ms Ardern’s ratings have also dropped in recent months due to a worsening housing crisis, rising living costs and mortgage rates, and growing concerns about crime.
This has meant that the Labour Party, which has been in power since 2017, lost its consistent lead in the polls early last year.
Ms Ardern was elected just over five years ago on October 26, 2017, and at 37, was New Zealand’s youngest ever PM. Before that, she was the youngest sitting MP in 2008, elected aged 28.
During her resignation speech, Ms Ardern announced the next New Zealand general election will be held on October 14, 2023.
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