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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Speech by President Barroso at the Global Vaccine Summit

Global Vaccine Summit/Abu Dhabi

25 April 2013



Ladies and gentlemen,

Distinguished guests,

First of all let me thank Abu Dhabi for receiving us here today and organising this very important conference, for their hospitality. I would also like to thank Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for this very important initiative.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Of course I don't have to convince you of the need to fight for immunisation and polio eradication.

We all know that, every day, there are 19.000 clear and convincing reasons for doing so. Because that is the number of children under the age of 5 who on average die every day from perfectly preventable causes.

More and more, the world unites to bring this tragedy, this insult to human dignity, to an end - because it is simply unacceptable. We can stop this, and we will.

And this impressive conference is another milestone in this global effort, and the European Union is proud to be part of that coalition. It shows how this campaign continues to gather momentum. In particular, the enormous energy and effort that Bill Gates puts into this, is an inspiration to us all.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The European Union is and remains the largest donor of development aid in the world. The European Commission alone annually commits more than 8 billion euro.

A significant part of that aid – over one fifth - goes to social sectors. This means that half a billion a year goes to health initiatives, because that is where it makes a real difference for our partners.

Investing in health systems is not just a social imperative – it is also, if you will, good "economics", as it helps tackle the root causes of underdevelopment, poverty and instability.

Through a comprehensive approach we can improve health systems, provide better access to health services, invest in related areas like nutrition, sanitation and clean water, and address the broader social issues that impact health. These broader policies are indispensable to make specific immunisation campaigns effective and sustainable. And just now, in this part of the debate, we heard some of the concrete difficulties and obstacles that exist when we try to put the programmes really on the ground.

This in fact supports the holistic approach, linking the health policy, the health part of our development aid policy, to a broader concept of support for countries. This is why we have also integrated these specific lines of support to health in our country by country programmes.

The impressive results that have been achieved over the years in polio eradication are an excellent example for this comprehensive division of labour between us and our partners. Government efforts, public and private donors have all made this possible, with the European Union contributing substantially along with other very important donors.

Let me just outline of a few of our actions:

In Afghanistan and Nigeria, for instance, we have supported health and immunisation systems for a total of 258 million and 85 million euro respectively over the last seven years.

On the global stage, we have funded routine immunisation through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation with 83 million euro. And we have already announced an additional amount of 10 million euro to support GAVI's work to 2015.

Moreover, our strategy of comprehensive health support does not exclude specific support to actions such as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, as we have done on a regional basis in West-Africa and Nigeria - commitments which together amount to over 130 million euro.

But let us be clear that it is not just the money that makes the difference, but the people. The huge success in bringing down polio is to a large extent the work of routine immunisation services and their health workers; courageous men and women who devote their lives to preventing deaths; who in some regions even endanger their own lives to save others. Let me use this opportunity to commemorate those that have been attacked and killed recently when carrying out immunisation programmes, and honour the brave health workers who refuse to give up even in the face of threats.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to be very clear on one strategic point: The European Union will keep its leadership on development cooperation. Even in admittedly financially difficult times, we are securing and deepening our toolbox, including aid. More specifically, we envisage at least 20% of our multi-annual aid budget 2014-2020 to be devoted to human development and social inclusion, including health, and this in the future as well. Together with my Commission colleague, Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, responsible for development, we are in the final decisions on the next budget. For those familiar with the European Union decision process it's not always very easy, but there was an agreement between the Member States and now we are discussing with the European Parliament. Our aim is to have it up and running from the 1 January 2014 until 2020. And I can promise you that we can count on the support of the European Parliament, that we will keep in fact very important action in this field of development aid, including the social sectors, and including certainly health with a prominent role.

We particularly intend to increase our financing for health research in low income countries, for instance through a five-fold increase of the European Commission contribution to the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, which aims at the development of new drugs and vaccines for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Also, earlier this month, we have pledged to at least maintain our current level of support to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria.

Regarding polio eradication as such, we intend to continue our substantive health sector support to 2 of the 3 countries where the wild-polio-virus unfortunately still circulates: I can announce today that the European Union Commission plans to set aside, for the 7 years to come, over 1.3 billion euro of aid for Nigeria and Afghanistan, and that in our dialogue with these partners countries we have proposed to make health one of the three key sectors of development cooperation.

Furthermore, on top of our country level and our global health support, I am pleased to announce today a very specific and immediate support action: we will join partners in giving further support to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, with 5 million euro already implementable this year. So in the future, as in the past, the European Union will be a key ally in the global effort for immunisation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This campaign for immunisation is not just a health action. It is a moral imperative. The world cannot watch idly while preventable and shameful deaths occur every day.

We all have our roles to play, in an effective division of labour, and I'm happy to see that all of us here are so strongly committed to living up to this responsibility.

I thank you very much for your attention.

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