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EU to donate 200m more vaccine doses to low-income countries, von der Leyen says

Ursula von der Leyen this morning delivered her annual State of the European Union address.

Updated Wed 9:21 AM

THE EU IS to donate another 200 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to low-income countries, more than doubling its present pledge, the bloc’s chief Ursula von der Leyen has said. 

Speaking to the European Parliament in her annual State of the European Union address in Strasbourg, she said: “I can announce today that the [European] Commission will add a new donation of another 200 million doses until the middle of next year.

“This is an investment in solidarity, and it is an investment also in global health.” 

She mentioned vaccine disparity between economically advanced countries such as the United States and those in Europe, which have successfully vaccinated most people, and poorer nations struggling to get hold of supplies.

“With less than 1% of global doses administered in low income countries, the scale of injustice and the level of urgency is obvious,” she said.

Von der Leyen praised the EU’s vaccination roll-out. Approximately 70% of adults in the union have been vaccinated. In Ireland, this figure currently stands at more than 90%. 

When speaking about climate change, von der Leyen said the recent IPCC report “leaves no doubt” that climate change is man-made.

A report released last month by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the scale of recent changes to the climate is “unprecedented”, but that it is not too late to slow global warming. 

Von der Leyen said: “It’s us. We’re sure. It’s bad, but we can fix it.”

She said the EU will double its external funding for biodiversity, particularly in the most vulnerable countries.

The EU will also increase humanitarian aid to Afghanistan by €100 million in plans to be finalised this week. 

The commission president said the EU will propose a ban on products sold in the bloc that have been made by forced labour.  

Defence

The European Union will hold a defence summit next year during the French presidency of the bloc.

“President Macron and I will convene a summit on European defence,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament. “It is time for Europe to step up to the next level.”

Dublin MEP Ciarán Cuffe told The Journal he was pleased climate is “still very firmly on the agenda” but that today’s speech spent “quite a big of time on defence”. 

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“I was quite surprised at that and there is a worry that the response to the Taliban being in power in Afghanistan is increased European Union spending on defence,” Cuffe said. 

“I would link back defence to the big challenge of our time, which is climate action. I think the biggest defence threat over the coming years is the climate crisis.” 

The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces recently told The Journal that climate change is the biggest threat to Ireland. 

Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, who has served as the leader of Ireland’s military for six years and has a PhD in environmental and ecosystem governance, believes that climate breakdown is already creating conflict and destabilisation across the globe.

In one of many focuses on defence in her address von der Leyen said the EU would consider waiving value added tax (VAT) when buying defence equipment developed or produced in Europe. 

Cuffe described this as “quite extraordinary”, saying he would rather see VAT waived on low carbon spending.

- With reporting by Órla Ryan and AFP.

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