Health

Paris yet to provide details of cash pledge for coronavirus fight

PARIS — France played a central role in the EU-led effort that raised €7.4 billion in pledges for the global fight against coronavirus — but it has yet to detail how its sourcing or allocating its own contribution.

At the conference on Monday, President Emmanuel Macron announced France will commit €500 million to the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, an international collaboration intended to speed up the development and production of new vaccines, tests and treatments.

But four days later, neither Macrons office nor the ministries involved (including health and budget) have been able to tell POLITICO where the money is coming from, or how itll be allocated.

On Friday, a French official familiar with the internal conversations among ministries told POLITICO that “who pays is still under discussion” but most of the funds would be new money.

The lack of clarity reflects the ambiguous nature of the totals announced at such headline-grabbing pledging conferences. It also gives fodder to critics who say the events goals were rather nebulous, with significant differences between what various donors pledged and what constitutes new money.

Norways Prime Minister Erna Solberg, meanwhile, clearly earmarked the bulk of her countrys pledge to vaccine development and distribution.

The EU, which hosted the event, pledged €1.4 billion, but officials acknowledged that this sum is entirely repurposed money from elsewhere in the blocs budget, along with €400 million in loan guarantees.

The €7.4 billion total also includes money put toward the coronavirus response since January 30 — and the Commission wasnt eager to break down the total into new and old donations when asked by reporters this week.

A Commission spokesperson said it didnt want to “punish” countries for allocating money earlier than the pledging conference. “Were not asking the countries to explain what is new and what is not new,” the spokesperson said Thursday.

Most of the events other donors were national governments, which have strict budget rules as well as tender requirements and other restrictions on how public funds are spent. When faced with the hasty organization of the conference, they were pushed to make symbolic “pledges” before all the legal and administrative details had been worked out.

Macron has played a central role in championing a multilateral response — making a public show of support to the World Health Organization (WHO) when it has come under fire from Washington. He is also facing rising criticism at home for the domestic response to the pandemic, which has taken more than 25,000 lives.

As Macron explained it, Frances contribution would be composed of four parts, the first being a “substantial” increase in funding to the WHO over the next two years, up from $76 million for 2018 and 2019. The problem: To date, no one within the French government has been able to provide the new number.

There are also few details on the other three pillars: Accelerating the research and development of a coronavirus vaccine; ensuring equitable access to diagnostics and treatment; and supporting health care systems in vulnerable countries, namely in Africa.

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