Heger: EU-African Union Summit Was about Health Issues, Security and Freedom
Brussels, February 18 (TASR-correspondent) – In addition to talks on trade and investment opportunities, the conclusions of the two-day EU-African Union summit in Brussels resulted in two key priorities, namely health and security, Prime Minister Eduard Heger (OLaNO) stated after the event, which brought together 27 EU leaders and more than 40 top representatives of African countries.
The premier pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic confirmed the importance of Europe helping Africa, especially with the supply of COVID-19 vaccines. According to him, there are plenty of them in the EU and many aren’t used, so it’s possible to provide them to the African continent to increase the overall low vaccination rates there.
“But we need to think strategically ahead, which is how these countries would develop their own vaccines for the future, for possible future pandemics,” said Heger.
Already before the summit, the call by African leaders to abandon the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which exists within the World Trade Organisation (WTO), was a major issue between the EU and African Union countries. Asked how the dispute was resolved at the summit, Heger said that discussions revolved around technology transfer for the production of new types of vaccines. And in this way, both sides will take further negotiations at a lower level.
“We’ve heard from the Africans that they would be interested in their own production, and that would be easiest if they had free patents. But in order to start production on their own territory, infrastructure and technology transfer need to be prepared, and this is not an evening-to-morning process,” said the premier, adding that this requires further discussions but in the long run it is necessary. Also because it is about saving lives, which both sides are well aware of. However, he said, the EU wants to help African countries more widely, in developing their national health systems and economies.
Meanwhile, the premier said after the summit that such events are also a good opportunity for Slovakia to explore new investment opportunities and ensure appropriate policy preparation. The premier described the two-day summit as beneficial for Slovakia, both in terms of bilateral talks he had with the presidents of Rwanda and Ghana, or in talks with other African leaders during the working dinner on Thursday (February 17).
Heger noted that he had spoken with the Rwandan president mainly about the cooperation in nuclear energy that the country wants to develop, and with the Ghanian president about the provision of vaccines against COVID-19. Slovakia would thus help the country improve the low vaccination rates.
“This whole debate has also been beneficial for Slovakia, because we know that Africa does not resonate often in our media and social debate. And yet the whole continent is an area of great opportunity. Any investment that will bring economic growth that will benefit both parties,” stated the premier.