Bounce back better, priority for the EU

NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Luc Véron - The Philippine Star

Almost two years into the pandemic, the world has embraced changes and digital transformation with unprecedented speed and scale, not only in lifestyles and social interaction but also in every aspect of business and the provision of services. What we witness now are varying rebound stories, some more successful than others.

In the EU, I have observed that businesses are bouncing back and mobility of people has vastly improved. With an effective containment strategy and progress in vaccination, we have a decreasing number of new and severe infections and hospitalizations. This allowed EU member-states to reopen their economies. For 2021, we expect 19 EU countries to be at pre-pandemic levels, with the rest following next year. Growth in the euro area outpaced both the US and China in the last quarter.

In my meetings with government officials, I have shared that it is also my hope for the Philippines to be able soon to open more businesses and allow greater mobility for the general population, including children, and the return of students to face-to-face schooling and interaction with their peers and teachers.

During this month of September, I had the privilege to speak at the CEO Conference of the Management Association of the Philippines and the EU-Philippine Business Summit of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. My message revolved around three important points:

First, vaccination is the way to pull through collectively from this pandemic.

Vaccination is the only way we can collectively live with this virus for the near future and regain our capacity to pursue our collective ambitions. At the beginning of 2021, the long awaited vaccines gave us all hope that we might soon see the end of this pandemic. At the end of August, the EU reached a crucial milestone, with 70 percent of its adult population – that is over 256 million adults – fully vaccinated.

In the European Union, we believe that no one is safe until everyone is safe. The EU is committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine gets a vaccine, wherever in the world. As the European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen stated during her speech on the State of Union on Sept. 15, “Our first – and most urgent – priority is to speed up global vaccination. With less than 1 percent of global doses administered in low-income countries, the scale of injustice and the level of urgency are obvious. This is one of the great geopolitical issues of our time.”

The EU and its member-states have shared half of their vaccine production with the rest of the world. We delivered more than 700 million doses to the European people, and we exported an equal number of more than 700 million doses to the rest of the world, to more than 130 countries. The Philippines is among the top 10 beneficiaries of COVAX.

Second, we have now the opportunity to build a new economic model to address climate change.

The global COVID-19 lockdowns caused fossil CO2 emissions to decline by an estimated 2.4 billion tons in 2020. The EU takes this opportunity to ensure a green recovery. As the Commission President put it, “In the gravest planetary crisis of all time, we chose to go it together with the European Green Deal.” The European Green Deal aims to halt and reverse climate change and biodiversity loss by transforming our food systems, forest, land, water and sea use as well as energy, urban and industrial systems.

Third, digital transformation is key to strengthen businesses.

In the EU, we firmly believe that digitalization is the only way forward towards sustainable and inclusive growth. The EU is a global leader in digital transformation. Globally, the EU will continue to work with its partners to deepen trade links, strengthen global supply chains and develop new investment projects on green and digital technologies.

Even in the fight against COVID and economic recovery, the digital transformation is part of the solution. In Europe, the tourism industry and the service sector more in general, have greatly benefited from the EU Digital COVID Certificate. Today, more than 400 million certificates have been generated across Europe. Forty-two countries in four continents are plugged in.

I hope a mutually accepted interoperable system will also bring more mobility to Filipinos.

The EU dedicates so much effort to build back better in Europe, it does so with a great sense of collective responsibility and a clear intent to lead by example.

We cannot repeat enough that we heal together and we recover together.

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Luc Véron is ambassador of the European Union to the Philippines.

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