European leaders called on U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday to rethink his decision to terminate the U.S.’ relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump announced the decision on Friday, arguing the UN agency has failed to respond to U.S. concerns about its handling of the virus, which originated in China.
A spokesperson said the WHO, the founders of which include the U.S., had no comment to make on Saturday.
The European Commission was more vocal. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on Trump to reconsider, saying only global cooperation and solidarity could help to combat the virus.
Global cooperation is needed rather than solo efforts, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told newspapers belonging to the Funke media group.
He and Development Minister Gerd Mueller both called Trump’s move the “wrong signal at the wrong time.”
These concerns were echoed in Sweden, where a cabinet member said the move could lead to significantly more deaths.
“I think it’s very serious. It risks creating a situation where the WHO must cut down on operations that support poor countries instead of scaling them up,” Peter Eriksson, minister for international development cooperation, told Swedish broadcaster SVT.
Eriksson said he also feared that other countries might follow the U.S.’ decision. Last week, Trump said he would pull the plug on U.S. contributions to the WHO – which he said was between 400 million and 500 million dollars a year – if the organization did not make improvements within 30 days.
The U.S. leads the world in the number of COVID-19 deaths and Trump’s response to the pandemic has been widely criticised.