Ursula von der Leyen: We have confidence that we will be able to safely reopen our societies



Indeed, our primary focus at this European Council at this point in time continues to be the fight against the pandemic – both inside the European Union and of course also outside the European Union. https://www.eudebates.tv/ In the European Union, it is undeniable that we have made great progress since the beginning of May. We see cases and hospitalisations on a downward trend. That is good. By the end of the week, over 300 million doses of vaccines will have been delivered to Member States. And in June, we expect more than 400 million doses.

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So we are on track to reach our goal to have enough doses being delivered to vaccinate 70% of the adult population in the European Union by the end of July. If we continue like this, we have confidence that we will be able to safely reopen our societies. So we must now focus on consolidating this progress.

One important element that we have been discussing is the vaccination of minors. We hope for EMA to approve the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15 year old children, which will then make the vaccination possible. Another topic that we have been discussing is of course the possibility of escape variants. Vaccines are showing effectiveness against the known variants present in Europe – that is a good result. But of course we know that escape variants will remain a public health risk. And we are therefore working hard on setting up an efficient monitoring of escape variants for the European Union. The ECDC is monitoring closely the circulation of variants within the EU and it is now important that it expands its monitoring to a global scale. Because this will help us stay presumably one step ahead of the virus and adapt our strategies quickly in case that this is necessary.

This is all the more important as we progress with reopening our societies and in particular as we progress in facilitating freedom of movement across the European Union. And indeed, there is then the EU Certificate that plays a role. We are very happy that the political agreement last week has taken place. It marks a major milestone in this respect. Citizens will now be able to use a mutually recognised certificate, wherever they travel in the European Union. The IT infrastructure is ready at EU level as of 1 June.

And as of mid-June, when the Regulation enters into force, Member States will be able to connect live to the system. Now, Member States have the key and the urgent task to make sure that their national health systems are fed with the information of citizens’ health status, so that the Certificate can be issued. That sounds like a lot of work and indeed, it is still a lot of work. But I am optimistic that we are getting there. I think the Certificate is a unique opportunity to showcase how the European Union contributes concretely to peoples’ daily lives. So we must all contribute to make it happen.

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