These are truly trying times. So far the corona virus has spared no continent, no region, no country. Europe has been hit particularly hard. Measures, unthinkable only months ago, have been taken everywhere. Countries all over the world have seen their economies sink. This crisis is unprecedented. But so is Europe’s response.
Europe – the European Union and its member-states –already last month mobilised over €20billion of assistance to our partner countries: to fight the virus, to assist affected countries, and to help revitalise economies. A large share of this package is going to Africa, for Africa is our neighbour continent and strategic partner – and Europe has a major stake in its stability and prosperity.
But in this crisis we want to do more. We need to raise funds for the development of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines– safe, available and affordable to all. This is why the EU is hosting an international pledging marathon. It started on the 4th of May and will continue until end of the month. It has already reached US$8billion in pledges on its first day; from world leaders, celebrities, and business people. We expect much more to come, an encouraging sign that solidarity is alive and well all over the world.
Within Africa, there is a long relationship between Ghana, the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence, and European countries. Political and economic ties with European countries go back to the early days of its independence. Today, the EU is the first trade and investment partner of Ghana and a major aid donor. Most of all, Ghana – with its stable democracy, is a valued partner to discuss both the future of EU relations with Africa and the great challenges of our era.
In Ghana, # Team Europe is fully mobilised to support the fight against COVID-19 with a package totalling more than €100million. A number of existing and new projects will focus on fighting the pandemic. We are working with Ghana’s government, health institutions, laboratories, local communities and NGOs. The EU is not alone in this effort, working in close collaboration with other development partners – notably the IMF and World Bank, wherein the European countries have an important role and a significant share. As in the rest of Africa, the priority is to fight the virus while protecting the most vulnerable populations from the consequences of this worldwide crisis.
This decisive action by the EU should not come as a surprise. The EU’s founding principle is about solidarity and being stronger together. This week we remember that 70 years ago, on May 9, 1950, Robert Schuman, a French Minister with a German name, came up with an idea that would change the lives of millions of Europeans.
It was just after World War II and European countries had all but destroyed themselves. Everybody could agree that this should never happen again. Something needed to be done, but what? Robert Schuman proposed something never done before: instead of fighting for resources, we should pool them, manage them together – to everyone’s benefit. Today, we would call it a win-win. At that time, coal and steel were the key resources, so Schuman proposed to bring their production under a joint authority. And thus a new project was born, that would over the years extend to full cooperation in almost all fields of our lives and activities.
Over the years, the European idea – based on values, rights and most of all on sharing power and resources – has proven to be both resilient and robust. It is an exceptional project that has granted progress, prosperity and protection to our people.
But our achievements are not to be taken for granted: as we found out a few years ago when a major member decided to leave the club, the European project takes constant work and maintenance. And in the last 15 years it has become clear that we are vulnerable to economic shocks, to ecological shocks. And now we have found out that we are also vulnerable to viral shocks. That is why it is so crucial to work together, with each other and with our partners.
And it is also why it’s important to remain vigilant to disinformation and those who want to divide us and create chaos. The enemy, as Ghana’s president has so eloquently put it, is not the other – it is the virus.
As the European countries commemorate 70 years of peace, freedom and security, they also remember the very origin of their project. The cradle of European cooperation was war, chaos, destruction and disruption. European countries learnt the hard way to see the other as a brother, not an enemy. In the face of common threats, we need to work together. Together, we will fight the virus. Together, we will make our societies stronger. We are sure we can do this, together.
The authors are the Ambassadors of the EU and EU member-states in Ghana
Diana Acconcia, Ambassador of the EU
Tove Degnbol, Ambassador of Denmark
Anne-Sophie Avé, Ambassador of France
Christoph Retzlaff, Ambassador of Germany
András Szabó, Ambassador of Hungary
Giovanni Favilli, Ambassador of Italy
Jean Claude Galea Mallia, Ambassador of Malta
Ron Strikker, Ambassador of the Netherlands
Alicia Rico Perez del Pulgar, Ambassador of Spain
Lukas Kindl, chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Czech Republic