‘We have to learn our lessons’ from coronavirus pandemic, says EU's Von Der Leyen

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The global community must learn from the coronavirus pandemic and cooperate to achieve global health security, said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a G20 virtual press briefing.

“We have to learn our lessons. And of course, we will need to work together beyond the current coronavirus pandemic,” she said at the G20 Riyadh summit press briefing on Friday.

Von der Leyen also addressed the economic recovery from the pandemic, arguing for a sustainable and inclusive agenda.

“Our collective recovery must be sustainable, and it must be inclusive, it must be in line with the 2030 Sustainable Agenda and its goals,” said Von Der Leyen.

“The European Union will lead by example ... We are aiming to achieve climate neutrality by 2050,” she said.

Von Der Leyen also welcomed US President-elect Joe Biden's embrace of the Paris Climate Agreement, which President Donald Trump had withdrawn the US from.

“Effectively addressing climate change will require a decoupling of economic growth from the exploitation of limited resources,” she added.

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Charles Michel

Von der Leyen was joined in the press conference by European Council President Charles Michel, who discussed the opportunities to rebuild from coronavirus and readjust the current financial system.

“In many ways, tomorrow’s G20 summit will be what a post-COVID world will look like, and what we want it to look like. We will discuss how to make that future more sustainable, more resilient, and more inclusive,” he said.

Michel also suggested that an international treaty on pandemics could increase health cooperation and prevent future pandemic outbreaks, but emphasized the ongoing role of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Like von der Leyen, Michel argued for the importance of a green transition.

“The green transition is a huge opportunity to drive forward our economies and to make this happen we need massive investments. The private sector will be key for this investment,” he said.

The president suggested that more debt relief was needed for the global economy.

“COVID-19 has hit the most fragile, hardest. G20 finance ministers have done good work. The G20 debt moratorium is a good step in the right direction, and it might have to be extended beyond 2021, but in our opinion it is not enough, we are convinced that more debt relief is needed. All creditors must do their fair share, no country can be seen as getting a free ride,” he said.

European Council President Charles Michel. (Screengrab)
European Council President Charles Michel. (Screengrab)

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