EU says no to patent-free vaccines for Africa
EU countries blocked mention of waiving vaccine patents to fight the pandemic at a meeting in Africa overshadowed by the coup in Sudan.
It was “necessary to conclude the discussions on how the World Trade Organization (WTO) can support the rise of manufacturing, the equitable distribution of health products linked to Covid-19 and the transfer of technologies”, said 68 EU and African foreign ministers. in a joint statement Wednesday (October 27) after talks in Kigali.
“We have recognized, everyone does, that there is an unbearable vaccination gap that must be closed (…) between Africa and Europe”, also told the press. from the EU, Josep Borrell.
And the problem was “not just a moral duty,” Borrell added, given scientific warnings that new variants of Covid could develop in Africa, where only 5% of people have been vaccinated and then rebound in Europe. .
But for its part, the African Union (AU) had wanted a higher level of ambition.
He called on the EU to support “a targeted and time-limited travel waiver” on vaccines in earlier versions of the statement, seen by EUobserver.
Trips stands for “trade related aspects of intellectual property rights”.
EU states had also supported measures “including … trade-related aspects of intellectual property” in previous drafts.
The Kigali meeting saw German firm BionNTech sign a memo with Rwanda to cash in on the pandemic by building a vaccine production plant in the country next year.
But all discussions of patent waivers were removed from the final declaration due to lobbying from EU states with close ties to pharmaceutical companies, such as Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the ‘Ireland and the Netherlands, according to the Geneva medical association Doctors. without limits.
“The EU urgently needs to change its approach to Covid-19 vaccines (…)
The AU also wanted EU states to recognize vaccine certificates for all vaccines, including an Indian vaccine, approved by the World Health Organization.
But the EU has only agreed to express support for the “ongoing efforts” of “reciprocal recognition”.
coup in Sudan
The Kigali talks took place in the shadow of a military coup in Sudan, which saw the AU suspend its membership and “strongly condemn the seizure of power”.
The joint statement does not mention the putsch or any other African conflict, such as the one raging in Ethiopia.
Borrell explained that it was because “our friends at the African Union were [still] to discuss [their reaction to Sudan] and I must obviously respect these procedures “.
But he added: “The actions of the military represent a betrayal of the revolution, the transition and the legitimate demand of the Sudanese people for peace, justice and economic development.”
In other areas, the Kigali communiqué highlighted tensions over migration and women’s rights.
EU and AU states have pledged to take back failed asylum seekers or economic migrants from their respective territories, but “Eritrea has disassociated itself” from the pledge.
An earlier project had also spoken of protecting “sexual and reproductive health and rights” in Africa, but the final declaration redacted that line.
Looting of art
Despite the disappointment over vaccine patents, however, AU countries won a minor victory over the looting of works of art.
“Ministers must (…) encourage mutual engagement for the restitution of cultural property,” the Kigali statement said, in accordance with AU proposals.
On the same day in the UK, Jesus College Cambridge agreed to return a bronze rooster looted by the father of a former student in the Kingdom of Benin over 100 years ago.
The musée du quai Branly in Paris also agreed to return to Benin 26 objects stolen in 1892.
According to French art historians quoted by Reuters, around 90% of African artistic treasures were to be found in Europe, including 70,000 objects at the Quai Branly and tens of thousands at the British Museum.