…As Macron and Merkel join forces on EU COVID-19 response***
The alliance of countries that have responded to Australia’s call to launch an independent investigation into what had caused the COVID-19 pandemic has grown to 116, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday.
Payne first called for a global investigation into the pandemic’s onset late in April, after Australian Interior Minister Peter Dutton urged China to release information about the novel coronavirus.
“I think what it illustrates is a broad view that given the experience of COVID-19 – more than 300,000 deaths, millions of millions of people around the world losing their jobs, including here.
“The job lose is the impact on economies from one corner of the globe to the other – that there is a strong view that it is appropriate to engage in a review of what has happened in the pandemic.
“The impact it has had, to ensure that we learn those lessons so that it does not happen again,” Payne said at a news conference.
In particular, a group of 54 African countries has joined the motion which has already been backed by 62 countries, including the EU member states, the UK, Russia, Japan, India, Indonesia, and Canada, among others.
Payne said a discussion into the matter would continue at the virtual World Health Assembly meeting, scheduled to take place later on Monday.
China first informed the World Health Organisation about an outbreak of an unknown disease in Wuhan, the capital city of its central Hubei province, in late December.
The pathogen was soon confirmed to be a novel strain of coronavirus with a human to human transmission, and the disease that it causes was officially named COVID-19.
On March 11, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
In a related development, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are to launch a joint initiative for a European response to Covid-19 later on Monday, the Elysee Palace has said.
The Elysee did not give any further details about the nature of the initiative, but France and Germany have so far taken sharply different views on a potential European recovery plan.
France, Spain and Italy have been pushing for a major fund to provide grants and loans to restart the economies of the bloc’s worst-hit countries – with Italy and Spain those that have suffered most.
Germany and the Netherlands have been more skeptical.
Merkel and Macron would be holding talks by videoconference at 3:30 pm (1330 GMT) followed by a joint press conference at 5 pm, the Elysee said.
The European Commission currently has the task of drawing up a compromise that can garner the consent of all 27 EU member states, set to be made public next Wednesday.
The full details are not yet known, but commission President Ursula von der Leyen has made clear it will be anchored within the next long-term EU budget, starting 2021.
The package is to be worth considerably larger than a 320-billion-euro (346 billion dollars) figure that circulated in recent days, according to a commission official familiar with the talks, and involves a large proportion of grants.
EU officials have previously spoken of an instrument worth at least 1 trillion euros.
EU countries already agreed on a half-trillion package of short-term crisis loan instruments.
The first credit lines worth 240 billion euros from the eurozone bailout went live on Friday.
Sputnik with additional reports from dpa