European Union leaders on Saturday urged the U.S. to reconsider withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO) and stated that “global cooperation and solidarity through multilateral efforts” are the only effective and viable ways to win the battle against coronavirus.
In a joint statement, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell, the bloc’s top diplomat, said that the EU continues to support the WHO in its coronavirus response and had already provided the organization with additional funding. Von der Leyen and Borrell also stressed that members of the WHO had already agreed to an impartial, independent evaluation of lessons learned from the pandemic.
“In the face of this global threat, now is the time for enhanced cooperation and common solutions. Actions that weaken international results must be avoided,” the bloc’s officials said in the statement. “In this context, we urge the U.S. to reconsider its announced decision.”
On Friday, President Donald Trump said that the U.S. terminate its relationship with the WHO and redirect the funds it gives the organization, which amounted to $893 million during the 2018 and 2019 funding period, to other “worldwide and deserving” areas related to public health.
During the announcement about cutting ties with WHO, Trump said that China had “total control” over the organization despite only paying a small fraction of what the U.S. contributes. The president has been accusing the WHO of helping the Chinese government cover up the beginning of the pandemic for weeks.
According to the New York Times, public health experts consider the president’s accusations to be a way of deflecting blame over his own administration’s response to the pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 100,000 American lives.
Before cutting ties with the WHO, Trump froze U.S. funding for the organization in April. On May 18, he sent a letter in which he gave the agency 30 days to make substantial changes, and said the funding freeze would become permanent if that didn’t happen. Trump also said he would reconsider the U.S.’ membership in the organization if it did not make changes. Nonetheless, the president did not give the agency 30 days, announcing that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the WHO less than two weeks later.
It is not clear whether Trump can withdraw the U.S. from the WHO without Congressional approval, per the Times, or when that decision would come into effect.