BRUSSELS / BERLIN (Reuters) – The German Minister of Health urges the World Health Organization (WHO) to speed up its review of how to deal with a pandemic, which seems to mark a tougher European line on the UN body.

PHOTO FILE: Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attended a press conference organized by the Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by a new corona virus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. July 3, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

Berlin, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has so far largely protected the organization from the strongest criticism by Washington, which wants to leave the WHO because of its proximity to China.

But now Germany seems to be taking a firmer position.

Spahn told reporters that he had discussed the WHO crisis management review with its leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus twice over the past 20 days.

“In both conversations I encouraged it very clearly to launch this independent expert commission and to accelerate its launch,” said Spahn.

WHO said last week it would form an independent panel to review its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the response by the government.

US President Donald Trump accused WHO of being too close to China and not doing enough to question Beijing’s actions at the start of the crisis. Tedros has rejected the suggestion and said that his agency made the world know.

Tedros said the panel would provide an interim report for the annual meeting of health ministers in November and present a “substantive report” next May.

Spahn said the review was important now, even if the pandemic was still raging around the world, because “we can already draw conclusions.”

This could lead to swift action on governance and to enhance “cooperation between political and scientific levels” of the organization, Spahn added.

The European Union government said the review should be followed by organizational reform, possibly already being discussed with the United States and other members of the G7 rich nations group, officials told Reuters.

An official said the aim was to ensure WHO independence.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussles, Joseph Nasr, and Andeas Rinke in Berlin, Edited by William Maclean

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