By Charles Michel
BRUSSELS, Belgium — The following encompass remarks by president Charles Michel ahead of the G7 summit, June 11-13, 2021.
The G7 must be able to mobilize to tackle the biggest challenges we face. First, to support and promote an international order based on rules, to demonstrate that liberal democratic societies are best equipped to meet the challenges, to reduce the various threats, to overcome the pandemic, to support a project of economic prosperity and to progress together in the fight against climate change.
The paradox with this pandemic is this. On the one hand, the world has been slowed down by this pandemic. On the other hand, international cooperation has considerably strengthened and intensified. And this will still be the case in the coming days with this G7 meeting, but also with other international summits that will take place, including in Brussels.
I would like to focus on four areas where G7 cooperation is particularly needed: first, global health; second, foreign policy; third, climate change; and fourth, corporatization.
We must make sure that the world is being vaccinated as quickly as possible. The European Union (EU) is at the forefront of ensuring global equitable access to vaccines, especially to developing countries. And the G7 as a whole are major producers of vaccines. The EU is the largest exporter of COVID-19 vaccines to the world. So far, we have exported more than 270 million doses and we are a top contributor to the Covax facility, with over 2.8 billion euros. We will donate at least 100 million doses by the end of the year. We must also strengthen manufacturing capacities around the world. So we will invest one billion euros to boost vaccine production in Africa. We are also ready to work in Latin America to develop projects in this part of the world.
The question of intellectual property rights will likely be raised in this context. A patent waiver might sound good, but it’s no silver bullet. The TRIPS agreement already offers flexibility, and we want to focus on concrete proposals such as promoting voluntary licensing and knowledge transfers and patent pooling on mutually agreed terms. G7 leaders will also discuss how best to prepare for future pandemics, building on the Rome Declaration. And this idea of a treaty is now supported by more than 60 countries. The World Health Assembly has just decided two weeks ago to start examining such a treaty. It has taken the unprecedented decision to convene a special World Health Assembly in November to legally decide on the launch of formal negotiations.
The G7, together with four guest countries, Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea, will reaffirm our belief in open societies, multilateralism and democratic values. These values underpin the actions we take, the policies we develop, and the partnerships we build. In this context, Russia will be one of the main topics. G7 partners share similar views on Russia’s disruptive activities. The EU condemns illegal, provocative and disruptive Russian activities against the EU, its member states and beyond. I stressed this to President Putin in a phone call this week. On the conflict in eastern Ukraine, I will repeat that we do not see Russia as a mediator, but as a party to the conflict. We do not and will not recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
At last month’s European Council, EU leaders took rapid action against the authorities in Belarus for the forced landing of a flight. This was an attack on democracy, the media and freedom of speech, but also civilian aviation safety. And this robust action has set the tone for the international response to this incident. We once again call on the Belarus authorities to immediately release Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega and all political prisoners. At the summit we will, of course, also discuss our complex relationship with China. The EU’s approach is clear: China is a partner, a competitor and a potential systemic rival.
We must strike the right balance for our best interests between engagement and standing firmly by our values. We have to work with China to address global challenges, like climate change, or regional issues, like Afghanistan or the Iran nuclear deal. And economic relations with China are important for economic recovery. At the same time, we will defend ourselves against practices that pose security risks, distort the level playing field, or are incompatible with our values. We will continue to stand up to defend human rights and the rule of law in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
The promotion of our fundamental values, the defense of human rights, is what we also want to do when we are engaged, for example, in the Horn of Africa and especially in Ethiopia. We denounce extremely serious human rights violations and call for mobilization to provide humanitarian access. We support the demand for international investigations in order to qualify the serious elements of violations with which we are confronted on the ground, and to give the consequences that these events deserve.
A word now on the issue of financing for development, and especially relations with the African continent. We call for the establishment of a new alliance with the African continent, a form of Marshall Plan with Africa. This is the meaning of a call that we have supported to mobilize both the debate in connection with debt forgiveness and restructuring, the first point to generate financing capacities. Second element, to continue the debate on special drawing rights within the framework of the International Monetary Fund, several of us expressed the objective of 100 billion which must be able to be reallocated to the African continent.
A few words quickly on the climate commitment. You know that this is at the heart of the European Union’s priorities. You also know that we have been constant, tenacious, determined to keep this subject at the top of the international agenda: climate neutrality by 2050. And the strengthening of our objectives by 2030, in view of this commitment climate, is also a lever for more innovation, for more prosperity and to guarantee respect for our planet. Biodiversity is a subject for which we are also committed. We will also have the opportunity to address this important question.
In conclusion, you will understand, there are three key points for us for this summit. The first is the affirmation of our democratic values, of the rule of law. It is the affirmation of the ambition of democratic states to act and not simply to react, to act to promote our values. The second element is to work together on the ground of prosperity, of international taxation. Corporate taxes and the progress made after the meeting of G7 finance ministers, the question of the “level playing field”, the question of a carbon price, are all themes that will have to be debated. And the third point is to work with our partners intelligently, positively and constructively, to ensure stability, to reduce the risk of conflicts, to better prevent threats. And when we are confronted with conflicts, to try to find lasting and most inclusive solutions possible.
These are the few elements that form the framework of our work in the case of this first meeting of the G7 in which we will participate in a physical way.