Reinsalu: €100,000 WHO donation unrelated to Trump halting of payments

A masked Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia's foreign minister, at a recent government conference. Source: ERR

Estonia is giving €100,000 to the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of a drive to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says. This money is primarily aimed at developing countries, and is not related to United States President Donald Trump's halting of contributions to the international organization, Reinsalu said.

"Estonia is donating €100,000 to the global funds, but this is not intended for the costs of WHO's permanent activities, rather to help developing countries to get the virus under control," Reinsalu told ERR's "Välistund" radio show on Monday.

As reported on ERR News, in response to a WHO plea, Estonia is allocating €100,000 from development and humanitarian aid instruments to help contain the spread and mitigate the consequences of the novel coronavirus in the world's poorest countries

WHO has stressed that in fighting the coronavirus, we are as strong as our most vulnerable health systems, the foreign ministry said when the donation was first announced.

Not connected with Trump WHO payments' suspension

Reinsalu said the proposed additional contribution to the WHO budget was not connected to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to suspend contributions. 

"Some EU countries have promised to increase their payments to compensate for the US contribution [loss], but the Estonian government has not discussed this so far," Reinsalu said.

Donald Trump announced last week that the U.S. would be suspending WHO payments, saying that the organization had not done enough to prevent the virus breaching China's borders when it first emerged in the Hubei province of that country from right at the end of last year.

Alternative to WHO not needed

Reinsalu said while WHO's response to the coronary crisis should be analyzed, this does not mean that an alternative to the organization should be sought.

"I certainly do not think that an alternative to WHO should be found. The question is how effectively it works. Humanity deserves the truth on this issue and, second, we need to be able to act more effectively within the international community in the future," Reinsalu said.

Estonia, as an elected member of the UN Security Council, whose meeting it is chairing in May, plans to raise the issue of the links between the coronavirus and security then, Reinsalu said.

Concerns include an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission not being permitted into eastern Ukraine at present, based on the threat of coronavirus infection, he said.

Pandemic costing foreign ministry few hundred thousand euros

Reinsalu said that the foreign ministry has had to increase its expenditure by around a few hundred thousand euros as a result of the pandemic, for instance due to paying overtime to employees in providing round-the-clock consular assistance. 

At the same time, this has to be offset against reduced costs due to scaled-down foreign missions, trips etc., he said.

Reinsalu also reiterated Estonia's commitment to coronavirus bonds as a way of shouldering eurozone debts arising from the pandemic.

"Should Estonia abandon its principled position on bonds? I don't think this should be abandoned. But a dignified solution will also be found between the eurozone countries," he said. 

"However, there is no great alternative to taking responsibility. At the same time, the eurozone must be preserved. This system cannot be imagined as a bottomless pit - someone still has to pay for these things – and this is a perspective of over one or two generations or people," he added.

Reinsalu was also keen to avoid stressing a north-south divide within the EU and in regard to the experiences and extend of the pandemic.

 "There have been confrontations about money in the past in Europe, but the current intensity of feelings is among the highest [it's been]. The economic policy philosophy of states has been different ,regardless of which parties are currently in power. The development of the eurozone has been one constant crisis, with decisions made at the time."

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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