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2021 Debate Insights

Team Europe Initiative (TEI): Beyond the Covid crisis

Author: Sciences Po student Charlotte Souyris summarizes the debate session of the fourth edition of the Paris Peace Forum

Debate title: Team Europe Initiative on Manufacturing and Access to Vaccines, Medicines and Health Technologies

Date: 12 November 2021


Team Europe Initiative (TEI): Beyond the Covid crisis

There is no easy answer to the Covid crisis. Around the world, countries are facing this pandemic differently. However, Covid-19 demonstrates the necessity for cross-border cooperation and solidarity. This April, , the African Union launched the “Partnership for African Union manufacturing” to develop regional manufacturing capacities to face the challenge of vaccinating the continent.

This kind of initiative is strongly supported by Europe. At the fourth edition of the Paris Peace Forum, the European Commission co-organized a session to introduce the Team Europe Initiative on Manufacturing and Access to Vaccines, Medicines and Health Technologies in Africa. The Team Europe Initiative is supporting the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing which aims at developing vaccine research and development hubs.

Moderated by Mark Gray, the Head of the DG INTPA unit at the European Commission, who was joined during the session by Jean-Yves le Drian, the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation (WHO), and Fati N’zi-Hassane, Head of Human Capital and Institutional Development of the African Union Development Agency (NEPAD).

“We know that the immunity to Covid-19 will be global, or it won’t be at all. ” [1]
– Jean-Yves le Drian

TEI, launched by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, proposes a collective approach on the European stage to overcome the crisis of Covid-19. The TEI favors cross-border cooperation, combining public, private and civil society initiatives. In this regard, the WHO has a major role as global coordinator to avoid the fragmentation and duplication of effort.

“(The vaccine delivery situation) is not a simple question that can be solved overnight.”
– Soumya Swaminathan, WHO

With an important budget (1 billion euros), the TEI primarily targets regional manufacturing capacities. . In order to overcome the sanitary crisis, the TEI agenda is three-fold; on the supply side, TEI promotes industrial development; on the demand side, it promotes the opening of markets and guarantees locally produced vaccines for buyers; finally, it provides the right financial ecosystem to make sure that everyone gets to access vaccines. TEI is already today the largest donor to COVAX with 3 billion dollars given.

“One of the biggest challenges that was exposed by the pandemic is that one is safe only until we are all safe.”
– Jutta Urpilainen

But that’s the trick. TEI cannot reduce itself to European borders. It must go beyond a simple continental plan. Regional versions of the TEI were put into place to ensure access to affordable health for all in the name of equality. In order to support African medical agencies, achieving an independent African vaccine production hub constitutes the primary project of TEI. Indeed, Africa is far from autonomy when it comes to vaccines; it imports 99% of the vaccine doses of its population and 90% of its overall medicines. The goal is the production of vaccines “ for the Africans by the Africans’ ‘ (Fati N’zi- Hassane).

The “Approach in Africa should be more long-lasting and normalistic – against other pathologies as malaria and HIV.”
– Fati N’zi- Hassane

The initiative’s support to Africa is key to understanding that TEI goes well beyond a simple response to the Covid crisis. TEI aspires to become a long-term sustainable response. Local healthcare manufacturing promoted in Africa for Covid vaccine facilities is to be extended to other diseases and to other developing regions in the world. The next step could be the harmonization of sanitary policies, both at the European and world level. But most importantly, the success of the TEI approach is to be applicable to other global challenges, such as the environmental crisis; “The pandemic has taught us that if we rise against each other, we will collectively lose; this is the case for health but also for the environment.” (Jutta Urpilainen).

“ We need more than Team Europe or Team Africa, we need Team World.”
– Jutta Urpilainen

Yet, there will be other crises, and there will be other attempts to answer these with a strictly national perspective, overlooking the benefits of global cooperation. Team Europe Initiative must place itself as a role model for responses to upcoming obstacles, promoting the value of justice and humanism. In his concluding remarks, Mark Gray points out that today is the start of the process; the longevity of the TEI is dependent on the translation of those numerous commitments into targeted actions.


[1] Original French quote: “Nous savons que l’immunité au Covid-19 sera globale ou ne sera pas.”


Contribution by Charlotte Souyris

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