"The European Union would like to give itself a good conscience"

Interview with German Velasquez, World Health Organization

By Vittorio DE FILIPPIS and Christian LOSSON
Libération (France)
Friday, 10 janvier 2003

What is your reaction to the European initiative?

It's all the more surprising as the WTO has been pushed aside informal discussions, which took place in November, in Sydney, or in Geneva, in December. And that Pascal Lamy [the European Trade Commissioner] never even asked our opinion on the topic. If he had done so, he would have known our position is diametrically opposed to his. It is not the place of the WHO to define a limiting list. The national authorities of developing countries are in a better position to identify public health priorities. To play this game would be a step back, in view of the results from Doha, which allowed countries the opportunity to define them themselves.

Do you have the feeling that you were set up?

Yes, even if it probably isn't the intention of the European Trade Commisioner. If we say: "Yes, the list is fine," or "No, such and such a disease should be added," then we are entering into the logic of a limiting, yet global list, when the topic is much more complex and different, unique diseases exist on every continent.

How do you explain the European offer?

Europe supports the American proposition. And Europe would now like to have a good conscience by leaning on the WHO for support to sweeten the pill.

Since its veto, the United States has guaranteed that it would not seek to press charges against the developing countries that import generics drugs.

This does not solve the problem. There is already a de facto moratorium, one imposed by international opinion, which is very sensitive to this question.

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