WELCOME MESSAGE 2020

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

This twelfth edition of the World Health Summit is anything but business as usual. With all continents hit by COVID-19 in 2020, this World Health Summit is the first one since the World Health Organization has characterized this virus as a pandemic.

From all over the world, health experts and leaders are gathering this year again in Berlin to draw the lessons and consequences of this pandemic. There is so much to be learnt and shared.

First, this pandemic has reminded us that health truly is multidimensional: a new virus, which no one had heard of this time last year, created a butterfly effect of vast outreaching health challenges spanning the globe. It required the coming together of many scientists, researchers, and medical professionals amongst many others to work around the clock to understand the virus, its progression to cause disease, and to develop vaccines and therapeutics. But also to inform health policies and guidance for our citizens, economies and societies.

The EU invested €459 million in grants for 103 new research projects, and by the end of 2020, the EU will invest €1 billion into research and innovation to tackle COVID-19. We are investing heavily in research and innovation but also in our Vaccines Strategy to boost production capacity of companies who will supply vaccines for both EU and non-EU countries.

Second, we need to be collectively much better prepared for future health challenges. We do not want to experience again shortages of personal protective equipment, intensive care units overflowing, and
healthcare professionals struggling to cope with the excessive demands. Global challenges associated with the climate, trade and health will continue to bring new and emerging global health challenges. The EU is ready to step up and take more responsibility in the health sector.

The third lesson is that when viruses go global, we need immediate global action to bring global solutions. Some very positive strides are being made: we raised nearly €16 billion under the Coronavirus Global Response through a global call for action. No country in the world, no Union is large and strong enough to address these challenges on their own. This is why the position of the European Commission is clear: we want to promote multilateral cooperation and improve and reform the World Health Organization to make it ready to face the health challenges of the twenty-first century, for the benefit of everyone on every continent.

We have all felt the impact of this pandemic in some form, and we can and we are coming together to overcome this terrible disease.

I wish each of you a healthy summit as well as an inspiring learning experience.