By Shweta Aggarwal
Amid a deadly shortage of coronavirus vaccines in India and many parts of the world, the EU’s Ambassador to India Ugo Astuto said that Brussels is ready to engage New Delhi on the issue of TRIPS waiver for vaccines and will approach the issue from the prism of global solidarity
“I think it’s an important conversation we must have, including at the WTO. We share the same initial proposition with India, which is that we need to face to address this crisis with an attitude grounded in global solidarity,” said the EU envoy at a virtual conference organised by India Writes Network and India and The World, prestigious publications focused on global affairs.
“India has been exporting vaccines in the neighbourhood and beyond and so has the European Union. We have actually exported almost as many vaccines as we use domestically, around 200 million doses,” said the envoy. The European Union has also been leading the COVAX initiative, which aims at delivering vaccines all around the world where they are needed irrespective of where one leaps. We have been a driving force behind the creation of COVAX and we are one of the leading contributors. We are all in this together,” Mr Astuto said.
“We want vaccinations to be readily available at an affordable price worldwide. So, we work based on this assumption. And we intend to continue to do so,” he said.
“The EU’s response to the deepening Covid crisis in India was spontaneous and remarkable. It is this concrete expression of solidarity which has generated a lot of goodwill for India for the EU,” said Manish Chand, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network, and president, Centre for Global India Insights (CGII), a think tank focused on foreign policy analysis.
According to the EU envoy, the May 8 India-EU summit sent “a very strong message of solidarity” with India against the backdrop of the COVID crisis. “And there was a clear renewed commitment by all member states to support India in this difficult moment just like India supported the rest of the world in the past few months by keeping supply chains open, exporting pharmaceutical ingredients and vaccines,” he said.
The EU envoy’s remarks, ten days after the landmark India-EU leaders meeting in which the issue of TRIPS waiver figured prominently, suggests that the 27-nation European Union has an open mind about the proposal by India and South Africa for patents exemption on vaccines. The support by US President Joe Biden for the waiver, after initial vacillation, seems to have influenced global sentiments in favour of the proposal which is underpinned by the principle of global equitable access to anti-coronavirus vaccines. But the EU has now shown much enthusiasm for the patent waiver proposal.
At the India-EU leaders’ meeting, the first India-EU meeting held in 27+1 format, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an eloquent plea to EU leaders on May 8 to back a proposal for temporary waiver of intellectual property rights on COVID vaccines and medicines worldwide. He argued that the waiver was necessary to boost efforts to combat the pandemic by scaling up vaccine production and ensuring equitable access.
Germany, the largest economy in the EU, has been upfront about its opposition. “I made it clear that I do not believe that giving away patents is the solution to make vaccines available to more people,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “If a patent is given away and the quality is no longer controlled, I see more risk than chance,” she added.
French President Emmanuel Macron also echoed similar concerns. “The current issue is not really about intellectual property. Can you give intellectual property to laboratories that do not know how to produce and will not produce tomorrow?” Mr Macron said recently.
But regardless of differences on the issue of patents waiver, there is no let-up in Covid-related assistance from India. The EU has activated the Civil Protection Mechanism and EU member states have sent the oxygen-related and critical medical equipment worth around 100 million euro to India, making it “one of the most significant operations undertaken by the EU civil protection mechanism so far,” said the EU envoy.
- India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) is an emerging think tank and a media-publishing company focused on international affairs & the India Story. A venture of TGII Media Private Limited, a leading media, publishing and consultancy company, IWN has carved a niche for balanced and exhaustive reporting and analysis of international affairs. Eminent personalities, politicians, diplomats, authors, strategy gurus and news-makers have contributed to India Writes Network, as also “India and the World,” a magazine focused on global affairs. The Global Insights India (TGII) is the research arm of India Writes Network. To subscribe to India and the World, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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