Wednesday 8 July, 2020

The EU, Latin America and the Caribbean: Join forces against COVID-19

Josep Borrell, High Representative/ Vice President, European Union

Josep Borrell, High Representative/ Vice President, European Union

This piece was written by Josep Borrell, High Representative/ Vice President, European Union

A few years ago, the European Union placed the concept of resilience at the centre of its Global and Security Strategy. In a more complex, contested and interconnected world, it was assumed that security and well-being were going to face new geopolitical challenges as well as the transnational risks derived from globalization. This required strengthening the capacity of each country to deal with and overcome an external shock. This is an objective of our international cooperation, but it also challenges an EU that knows that it is vulnerable to these risks.

Today, the coronavirus is a critical test of resilience for societies, economies, and governance around the world. In the face of a global pandemic, there is no room for exclusively national responses or self-serving use of cooperation or economic power for geopolitical purposes. To be sure, there are different capacities and responsibilities to start with, but without mutual support or joint global actions, the impact of the disease can be even more devastating for everyone.

The European Union and its citizens are going through very hard times. But we are aware that to overcome the pandemic we must cooperate with all our partners, working side by side. And we know this because we have been doing it for decades throughout the world, facing other shared challenges, and in particular in Latin America and the Caribbean. And that is why, despite our own difficulties, the European Union has decided to immediately reorient the technical and financial cooperation programs with Latin America and the Caribbean to respond to this pandemic, with a total of 918 million Euros, as part of the global response in support of the efforts of partner countries to tackle COVID-19. Thus, 9 million Euros will be allocated to finance the work of the Pan American Health Organization [PAHO] and the International Federation of the Red Cross in Venezuela and neighbouring countries.

In the Caribbean, the EU is supporting the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) with 9 million Euros, and specifically in Jamaica, the EU has financed 29 ventilators for intensive care units adding to the 25 that were already in use in the public health system and effectively doubling the country's previous capacity.

The ventilators valued at over € 850,000 Euros are being distributed to hospitals across the country and medical personnel are being trained to use them. The EU is providing other medical supplies and equipment, including (among others) monitors, infusion pumps and ICU beds that can support treatment of Jamaicans who become infected with the coronavirus. These will arrive in the island later this month.

Furthermore, the European Investment Bank has already announced that it will mobilize up to 5.2 billion Euros to respond to urgent financing needs in more than 100 countries worldwide.

Beyond these resources, where our strategic partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean can be most effective is promoting together a robust coordinated and multilateral response. Our regions have known how to respond to the health crisis, applying drastic but necessary measures such as social distancing or confinement. But the health crisis knows no borders, regions or countries.

The challenge has only just begun. The coronavirus is causing a global economic crisis, which will increase inequalities and more severely affect the most vulnerable. Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean can do much more if we act together, advancing a multilateral agenda in the G20, the UN and the multilateral financial institutions so that there is more fiscal space to avoid health collapse, economic collapse and a serious social crisis.

The IMF and the World Bank have already announced lines of financing and debt relief for the poorest countries, but the middle-income countries, like Jamaica, burdened by high indebtedness should not be forgotten.

The coronavirus is an unprecedented challenge to the global economy. An effective response will need to mobilize international collective action. The EU and Latin America and the Caribbean - an association of 60 countries - must join forces again. It is in times of acute crisis when the ties between friendly countries are tested. And this crisis has once again reminded us that our resilience also depends on international cooperation. We will only emerge united from this crisis.

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