4 September 2020

 

Check against delivery

 

President, Ministers,

I am very grateful to Jens and the German Presidency for calling this meeting so soon after the summer break.

This summer was a timely reminder that we are sitting on a knife-edge when it comes to managing the pandemic.

Every day and every action counts.

 

The issue of cross border travel is - rightfully - high on everyone’s agenda.

The summer months have underlined the importance of coordinated action - and the confusion and frustration our citizens feel where this does not happen.

We urgently need to work together to improve the situation. The experience of last spring must be a lesson for all of us.

Your right to restrict freedom of movement on public health grounds is a given and we do not challenge that in any way.

But we cannot have a European Union which is so fragmented in its approaches to movement.

Our citizens and businesses deserve a clear and predictable  environment.

It is essential that all measures to protect citizens are not only effective against the virus, but also proportionate and non-discriminatory.

We must to the extent possible avoid further disruption of already fragile economies and additional uncertainty for citizens having already made huge sacrifices. This is also something our citizens rightly expect from us after so many months living with COVID-19

This is why today we will propose a well-coordinated, predictable and transparent approach to restrictions on freedom of movement.

With this, we want to support you in agreeing common criteria to determine the epidemiological risks, introduce a common colour coding system on risk areas and a common approach on measures when returning from travel to higher risk areas, like testing and quarantine.

I invite you all to cooperate with the Commission and the ECDC to reach a common understanding on justified, proportionate criteria for restrictions to free movement and travel related measures.

We are not seeking to harmonise here – we seek to coordinate. To systematise and to make travel more predictable. With clear and understandable information to citizens. And above all, without discrimination.

A shared EU framework for quarantine and test regimes would be very valuable in this respect.  

I look forward to hearing your views on the questions of the Presidency and its proposals on quarantine.

 

Similarly, I am concerned there are large variations in your countries on the approaches and capacity to test and contact-trace for COVID.

We are discussing a common approach to testing in the EU’s Health Security Committee, based on common principles and existing approaches.

This is essential to respond effectively to COVID-19 and control transmission and I call on you to underline to your experts the importance of reaching an agreement on this common framework.

 

The decisive solution to end the pandemic will however most likely come with a vaccine.

I am therefore pleased that you have all endorsed our common EU Vaccine Strategy and that this truly European solution on vaccine procurement has born fruit over the summer.

We have now almost completed a portfolio with six promising vaccine candidates.

The diversity of this portfolio improves our chances of having access to a safe and effective vaccine.

It is a necessary investment -- one that should not be considered in isolation, but against the social and economic cost of lockdowns.

I am very grateful to the exceptional efforts of the Joint Negotiating Team and the Steering Board who worked with us throughout the summer to secure this portfolio.

The Advance Purchase Agreement signed with AstraZeneca on 27 August was an important milestone as it secures our access to what will probably be the first vaccine against COVID.

We have also concluded exploratory talks with Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson, CureVac and Moderna. We are also very close to concluding with BioNTech.

Funding here is quickly becoming a key issue. Our Emergency Support Instrument is not bottomless.

The option to top-up the Emergency Support Instrument is available. I urge you to consider it very seriously.

With additional money, we could ensure that more promising vaccines are part of the EU portfolio.

If you agree to top up ESI, we can ensure that all promising vaccines are part of the EU portfolio.

I encourage you to remain united on the portfolio structure and advance with your national vaccination strategies to ensure equitable access and a steady deployment of the vaccine in due course.

It is essential that we continue to coordinate and strengthen our efforts in a spirit of solidarity.

I will continue to work around the clock with my team to ensure that we deliver safe and effective vaccines under the best possible conditions – everywhere, for everyone who needs them.

Thank you for your trust.