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Pandemic treaty delay leaves 'mixed feelings', says Charles Michel

Although non-binding, this international agreement would improve preparedness and response ahead of the next pandemic.
Although non-binding, this international agreement would improve preparedness and response ahead of the next pandemic. Copyright Olivier Hoslet/AP
Copyright Olivier Hoslet/AP
By Gerardo FortunaMarta Iraola Iribarren
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Lack of political courage led to agreement on a pandemic treaty being put on ice for another year, according to Charles Michel, but a deal is still in sight.

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The president of the European Council has described having "mixed feelings" following the failure last week of key United Nations-led talks on an international pandemic accord, which led to the initiative being delayed until May 2025.

“On the one hand, I’m disappointed because I would’ve preferred a decision and I felt the momentum was now,” Charles Michel told a pooled media interview in Brussels

Michel was among initiators of the pandemic treaty proposal during the Paris Peace Forum in November 2020.

“There was a lack of political will and courage of some around the table, and this is just regrettable,” he said.

But he encouraged the EU not to abandon the idea, considering the timeframe of the extension - until the World Health Assembly stages its next annual meeting - reasonable. “It means that now we have to fight so that this extension can be an opportunity to make a decision within one year,” he said.

It is “important to consolidate in an international framework the lessons we have learned following the pandemic", said Michel.

Although non-binding, this global commitment to improving preparedness and response ahead of the next pandemic would envision new measures to reduce inequalities between the global north and global south—for example, ensuring regional stockpiling and supporting the health sovereignty of developing countries.

The European Commission, which led the talks at the World Health Organisation on behalf of the EU countries, considers the extension of the deadline as a positive step forward.

Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides welcomed the new deadline and said that the EU "remains firmly committed to these negotiations”.

Commission spokesperson Stefan de Keersmaecker this week (3 June) said that there is still confidence about reaching an agreement.

“The topics which are covered by the pandemic agreement are wide and complex, which is why it makes total sense to have more time for these negotiations,” he said, claiming that the EU had acted both internally and abroad to address equity concerns laid bare by the pandemic.

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