FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 12, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
MADRID (Reuters) – The leaders of six European Union nations have called for building up EU stocks of critical medicines and equipment and other measures to boost the bloc’s long-term resilience to public health crises.
The 27-nation EU and Britain have reported some 1.4 million cases of the new coronavirus, or about a fifth of the global total. At the height of the crisis, many EU states resorted to protectionist measures, raising trade barriers to hinder the export of medical equipment to their neighbours.
In a joint paper sent to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday, the leaders of Denmark, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium and Poland backed proposals for shared research and development of vaccines and treatment.
“A broader, holistic EU strategy could be more efficient than each member state attempting to enhance preparedness on their own,” they said in the paper.
The proposals included maintaining a three-month stock of critical medicines, supplies and equipment across the EU as well as collaboration between states and companies to produce key products in times of crisis.
Reuters earlier reported that EU member states drastically underestimated their capacity to respond to the coronavirus and had told Brussels in February there was no need to order more medical supplies.
The paper emphasised the need for greater European research and development capacity for vaccines, through funding large-scale clinical trials and a “preparedness platform” that would reduce the risk for companies to develop vaccines by guaranteeing public purchases.
Research results could be shared on a European COVID-19 data platform, said the paper, which also called for joint monitoring and analysis of different testing strategies.