Discuss TRIPS Waiver, Health Activists Urge the European Council
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arriving at the EUCO. Germany is one of the key opponents of the TRIPS waiver.

Health activists have appealed to the European Council (EUCO) to discuss a waiver on Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) on all health goods necessary to address the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is no indication that this is on the agenda of the meeting which started in Brussels on Thursday afternoon.

While COVID-19 is on the agenda, the invitation letter from EUCO President Charles Michel to Member States simply states that “we will touch upon international solidarity, to ensure the speedy delivery of vaccines to countries most in need”. 

The main focus of the COVID-19 discussion will be on vaccination within Europe itself in the face of rising COVID-19 cases in some countries despite vaccinations.

“The pandemic is not over yet and figures are on the rise in several member states,” Michel notes in his letter. “Vaccination has brought significant progress in the fight against COVID-19 but more still needs to be done, especially regarding vaccine hesitancy and disinformation.”

Health Action International, Human Rights Watch, One Campaign, Oxfam, The People’s Vaccine Alliance have written to Michel requesting that the TRIPS waiver be discussed at the meeting, which ends on Friday.

Pointing out that “massive Covid-19 vaccination campaigns have allowed European Union (EU) Member States to scale back restrictions and those living within the EU are gradually going back to offices, classrooms and dining venues”, the letter adds that “for many outside the EU there is no semblance of a return to normal as access to vaccines and other life-saving technologies are still not guaranteed, and their human right to health not fulfilled.”

Noting that “the need for scaling up vaccine production and therapeutics was never more acute”, the letter points out that South Africa and India submitted a proposal to waive certain rights and obligations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) TRIPS treaty over a year ago.

“Despite growing support from governments, civil society and academics, and the calls from European Parliament and elected officials, a handful of governments, led by the European Commission, oppose the proposal and refuse to engage in meaningful negotiations,” the letter notes.

However, it adds, governments have human rights obligations concerning international cooperation. 

EUCO only considered, briefly, the issue of the waiver in November 2020, but hasn’t addressed it since, according to the activists.

“This is unacceptable. The institutional separation of powers must not impede the accountability of actions taken on behalf of the EU, especially when there is no unanimity among members and when such actions have consequences for global health and the EU’s reputation as a human rights and moral leader,” it adds.

They call on Michel to allow countries to discuss the TRIPS waiver at EUCO, and raise it at the next G20 meeting t on 30-31 October, and at the WTO Ministerial Conference from 30 November to 3 December.


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