EU chief calls for ‘European Health Union’ amid pandemic

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen addresses her first state of the union speech during a plenary session at the European Union Parliament in Brussels on September 16, 2020.(AFP)
Short Url
Updated 16 September 2020

EU chief calls for ‘European Health Union’ amid pandemic

  • von der Leyen said the coronavirus pandemic had underlined the need for closer cooperation
  • “For me, it is crystal clear — we need to build a stronger European Health Union,” she said

BRUSSELS: The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, urged EU members to build a stronger health union on Wednesday, promising a biomedical research agency and a global summit.
In her first annual State of the European Union address, von der Leyen said the coronavirus pandemic had underlined the need for closer cooperation. “The people of Europe are still suffering,” she said.
“For me, it is crystal clear — we need to build a stronger European Health Union,” she said. “And we need to strengthen our crisis preparedness and management of cross-border health threats.”
Addressing MEPs in the European Parliament, von der Leyen said her commission would try to reinforce the European Medicines Agency and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
And she announced the creation of a new agency for biomedical advanced research and development, dubbed BARDA.
Then next year, she will work with Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the Italian G20 presidency to convene a global health summit to learn and share the lessons of the coronavirus crisis.
“This will show Europeans that our Union is there to protect all,” she said.
Health policy remains the responsibility of EU member states and, while Brussels has tried to coordinate the bloc’s response to the epidemic, national lockdowns and border rules have varied widely.


Macron slams Turkey’s ‘bellicose’ talk on Karabakh conflict

Updated 30 September 2020

Macron slams Turkey’s ‘bellicose’ talk on Karabakh conflict

  • Macron condemned Turkey’s statements backing Azerbaijan in its bid to take back the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh
  • Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over Karabakh

RIGA: French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday condemned what he called Turkey’s “reckless and dangerous” statements backing Azerbaijan it its bid to take back the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh.
Ankara said on Tuesday it was “fully ready” to help Azerbaijan recover Nagorny Karabakh, as armed conflict escalated with neighboring Armenia over the region.
“I have noted Turkey’s political statements which I think are reckless and dangerous,” Macron told reporters in Latvia’s capital Riga during a visit to the Baltic EU state.
“France remains extremely concerned about the bellicose comments that Turkey made in the last hours, which essentially remove any inhibitions from Azerbaijan in what would be a reconquest of northern Karabakh. That we will not accept,” he added.
He also appeared to voice support for Yerevan: “I say to Armenia and to the Armenians, France will play its role.”
But Macron also said it was too soon to speak of a regional conflict.
He said he would discuss the tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday evening and US President Donald Trump on Thursday before reporting on the situation to the European Council of EU leaders.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over Karabakh and have blamed each other for sparking fierce clashes that erupted on Sunday and have since caused nearly 100 confirmed deaths.
The two sides have so far defied calls for a cease-fire.
Ankara has backed Azerbaijan in the conflict and on Tuesday the Armenian defense ministry said a Turkish F-16 flying in support of Baku’s forces had downed an Armenian SU-25 warplane. Ankara fiercely denied the claim.
Direct Turkish military action against Armenia would mark a major escalation after three days of heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over Karabakh.
And the UN Security Council called on both sides for an immediate end to the fighting.
Viewing Azerbaijan as its close ally and Armenia as its historic foe, Russia also called on Turkey to stop proclaiming support for Azerbaijan and to work toward a diplomatic solution to the escalation, the deadliest since 2016.
The European Union warned Monday regional powers not to interfere in fighting in Nagorny Karabakh, and condemned a “serious escalation” that threatens regional stability.