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Min Coveney statement at the virtual EU-LAC meeting

I would like to thank Heiko and Josep for this very welcome opportunity to participate today with EU colleagues and with colleagues and friends from across the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region. Fáilte/Welcome/Bienvenido to our LAC colleagues in particular.

While circumstances prevent us from being together in Berlin, it is good that we are able to convene virtually, and the high level of attendance on both sides is a reflection of the importance of this strategic bi-regional partnership.

I greatly value our relationships with LAC countries and I am pleased to announce today that Ireland will launch our Government’s first-ever Latin America and the Caribbean Strategy early in 2021; an ambitious strategy that will guide our commitment to strengthen and deepen our bilateral relationships with your countries and your region as we recover from COVID-19.

This meeting has an added importance and urgency in the context of COVID-19, which has seriously affected all of us in a multitude of ways. The pandemic is a stark reminder of how truly inter-connected and inter-dependent we are. [At the beginning of the crisis, Ireland began a major consular effort to assist over 8,000 travelling Irish citizens to return safely home. Over 1,100 were assisted in returning from the LAC region, and this extensive effort simply would not have been possible without the support and cooperation of your governments, for which I extend my sincere thanks].

The pandemic has brought about unprecedented economic and social challenges worldwide, and I am acutely aware of the very significant and disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on countries across your entire region.

Ireland was quick to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Since being the first country to respond to the World Health Organisation’s global appeal last February, Ireland has so far contributed over €140 million to the global response to COVID-19 and quadrupled our financial contribution to the WHO. For the first time ever, Ireland has provided a SIDS-specific humanitarian response, totalling €3.4 million to support our partners efforts to tackle COVID-19. This includes funding through the IFRC for pandemic preparedness measures.

Ireland has played its part also in the collective Team Europe response to the COVID-19 crisis with over €2.4 billion allocated to the LAC region.

As an islander, I wish today to assure our friends from the Caribbean that we will not ignore your specific concerns and interests as we step-up our engagement with your entire region. The Caribbean has been particularly devastated by the pandemic and the worsening impacts of climate change.

An equitable recovery from the pandemic is essential. We have already seen the results of global collaboration on vaccine research, and we need to continue to work together to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, so that no country or region is left behind.

The challenges of this pandemic will continue to resonate for some time to come. We have much to learn from and share with each other as we implement a strong multilateral response to the pandemic and we have already reaped benefits from working together on this. For our part, Ireland is fully committed to developing this partnership between the EU and the LAC region based on our shared values, as we navigate together the road towards recovery.

Ireland, as you know, will, at the end of the month, take a seat on the UN Security Council, initially alongside Mexico and St Vincent & the Grenadines from the LAC region.  During our term we will do our outmost to honour and deliver on the trust placed in us and to listen to the priorities and concerns of your region.

Thank you. Mil gracias.

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