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The European Union as the Spearhead of a Global Accord on the Vaccine

No property right could prevail over the right to life of billions of people, nor is admissible the arrogance by Donald Trump or by any national government in their Hobbesian struggle to get hold of the Covid-19 vaccine before others. There cannot be a new form of “vaccine-claiming sovereignism” established, replacing healthcare solidarity. A vaccine against a virus is a “mankind's good” and, when it will be available, it shall be produced and distributed according to rational and solidarity-oriented criteria, through a European at first and then global cooperation.
 
To this end, several juridical avenues can be used. The international treaties, which the EU too is a party to, provide that a “Compulsory Licensing” and other derogations can be imposed in order to authorize the production up to the necessary quantity and the distribution of a drug also to other factories, besides the patent owner's. And there are ways to remunerate those multi-national companies and governments that did invest much in the research.
In the present international dis-order, in the midst of USA-China tensions, delegitimization of multilateral-cooperation organizations, widespread desire of de-globalization and sovereignist impulses, realizing those principles will not be an easy battle. But it is necessary that the European Union, the national governments, firstly Italy, and the European citizens be alert and mobilized in front of the challenge we are faced with.
The vaccine will probably be available by the end of the year or beginning of 2021. Without a European (recently four countries met to start discussions on the subject) and then a general agreement on how to produce and distribute it, there is the risk for Europe and the rest of the world of precipitating into a “health war”. Therefore, a Global Accord is needed on the Cofid-19 vaccine, similar to the Paris one on climate change.
Such a banner can only be raised by Europe for arriving at a global level. The European Union was born to be something more than a global power among global powers. Is mistaken who thinks to replace national sovereignism with a European sovereignism, in order to snatch from the USA and China the right to be the first to use the vaccine.
Already with its initiative “EU global response to coronavirus” Europe took the lead of a world alliance to collect funds for research, which amount today to 9 billion euros.
Moreover, at the World Health Assembly of 18-19 May, 2020, the EU proposed to approve, in the WHO resolution on the response to the Coronavirus, the principle that every vaccine shall be considered a “global public good”. That text was approved also by China, leaving the USA even more isolated. Earlier still, 140 leaders and political figures signed the appeal “A popular vaccine against Covid-19”. And both Ms. Von der Leyen and Mr. Macron stated that the vaccine “shall be a world public good”.
The European Parliament asked that every research on the vaccine financed by public funds shall remain in the public domain. Now the matter should come soon at the top of the European political agenda and at the center of the discussions of the EU Council in June, together with the Recovery Fund. They are not two separate things: there is no recovery for Europe without a policy of its own on Research, in particular on Life Sciences, and on the connected production issues, but also without relaunching multilateralism and global cooperation.  
 
by Patrizia Toia 
 
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