President Michael D Higgins said the European Union had “failed Africa” by not delivering enough Covid-19 vaccines to the continent which is Europe’s closest neighbor.
At a meeting of non-executive presidents of EU countries, Higgins returned to an issue he has spoken out regularly in recent months: the great disparity between vaccination rates in Europe and Africa.
Just over 8 percent of the African population has received one or more vaccine and 22 of the more than 50 states have less than 5 percent of those vaccinated with a single dose, while six countries have less than 1 percent of their population vaccinated in September 2021.
In contrast, in Europe, many states are reaching the threshold for collective immunity and it is only in Bulgaria that less than 50% of its population has received at least one dose.
Speaking after the meeting at the presidential palace in Rome on Wednesday, Mr Higgins said the discussions focused on “the EU’s failures in the transfer of vaccination, and in particular with regard to the ‘Africa, our neighbor’.
“We failed in Africa. And we must also accept the need to pool technology, the transfer of capacity to protect against pandemics and the need to transfer science and technology in a way that will allow our neighbors to achieve sustainability, ”he said. he declared.
The meeting of the Arraiolos Group of EU Presidents was hosted by Italian President Sergio Mattarella. In total, there are 15 presidents in Europe who have non-executive functions, of which 14 attended the meeting.
In his remarks after the meeting, Mr Higgins also said that Europe must learn from the “inadequate analysis and response to the financial crisis” of ten years ago.
“We need to make sure we connect with the European street by seeking to forge an urgent and necessary link between ecology, economy, ethics and justice.
“I hope that our planning for the years to come will include a reflection on the assumptions that have led to the current legacy of ecological irresponsibility, and our galloping journey towards, and the diffusion of an ideology of an economy without morals. .
“The European street has, in the aspirations of its citizens, sought a Europe which is much more than an area of economic cooperation in matters of coal and steel and technocratic arrangements.
“The peoples of Europe continue to seek a vision of a Europe that transcends borders and dividing lines; a Europe that celebrates diversity, that embraces a respectful and sustainable relationship with our natural environment, and a form of economy that keeps its promise of sustainability, ”he said.
The president also touched on human rights in his speech, welcoming the government’s emphasis on this issue in its presidency of the United Nations Security Council. He specifically referred to the new regime in Afghanistan.
“I am very happy that [Ireland has] stressed the importance of being unambiguous about the rights of women and girls in the new circumstances of Afghanistan.
On Friday, Higgins will discuss some of the challenges discussed at the Arraiolos group’s meeting with Pope Francis, including statements on issues such as development, migration and climate change, which the president called inspiring. This will be his third audience with the pontiff.