Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne gestures as he responds to a question at a news conference in Ottawa, Thursday, Apr. 2, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada and EU pledge international cooperation in COVID-19 fight

Despite shutting down much of the air traffic between Canada and the European Union, Ottawa and Brussels will continue to work together to address the significant consular, public health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, officials in both capitals pledged Tuesday.

Canada and the EU are already assisting each other in getting their respective citizens return home from around the world, developing effective vaccines, therapies and diagnostics, and protecting the flow of vital supplies across borders, according to a joint statement issued by Canada’s foreign affairs minister and the EU’s top diplomat.

“Collaboration in international research and innovation is essential in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the joint statement by Canada’s Francois-Philippe Champagne and the EU’s Josep Borrell Fontelles.

Working on vaccines, treatment and diagnostics

The EU and Canada have committed to increasing research and innovation funding for vaccines, therapies and diagnostics, the statement said.

Both Ottawa and Brussels support the work of the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness network and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in leading international efforts to develop vaccines, the statement said.

Canada and the EU also support initiatives on data sharing for all COVID-19-related funded research at the global level, such as the UNESCO plea on data sharing and open science, the statement said.

Canada and the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, along with 14 other countries are also signatories of the open letter to publishers on open access to COVID-19 research, signed in March.

Canada announced on Apr. 5 that it will contribute $40 million to CEPI, which is at the forefront of international efforts to develop vaccines for COVID-19.

Ensuring free movement of medical supplies

A man wearing a face mask walks past the European Commission headquarters as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Brussels, Belgium Apr. 9, 2020. (Yves Herman/REUTERS)

Canada and the EU are also working together to make sure that critical medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment and ventilators, continue to cross borders.

“We are reviewing our own emergency measures and are pressing the international community to maintain open and connected supply chains to facilitate the flow of essential goods, especially medical equipment to combat the pandemic,” the statement said.

“We remain committed to a transparent, rules-based trading system more generally, as a means to support the resilience of supply chains to continue to function in this crisis and to expedite the economic recovery that will follow.”

The statement comes amid reports that not only the U.S. but also countries such as France have invoked emergency measures to limit or block exports of vital medical equipment and supplies amid a mad dash by governments worldwide to replenish their rapidly dwindling stocks of masks and other protective equipment.

Countering disinformation campaigns

In this April 13, 2020, photo, a woman wearing a face mask walks by a Chinese flag placed on a street prior a curfew set up to limit the spread of the new coronavirus in Belgrade, Serbia. While China struggles elsewhere to polish its image tarnished by its initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, Beijing has no problem maintaining its hard-won influence in Eastern Europe, where it battles for clout with the EU as well as with Russia in countries like Serbia. (Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo)

Canada and the EU are also collaborating on countering “the spread of disinformation and myths about the virus and efforts to undermine our unity,” the statement said without naming the foreign entities engaged in these campaigns.

However, an EU document released on Apr. 1 pointed the finger at China and Russia, alleging these countries have deployed a disinformation campaign against the West to worsen the impact of the coronavirus, generate panic and sow distrust, as well as advance their own geopolitical interests.

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