EU Chief Wants China to Join Investigation Into Coronavirus Origins, Says Probe Is Important 'For the Whole World'

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has joined calls for an investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, urging China and other nations to join the probe to help prevent a repeat of the crisis.

Lawmakers in multiple nations have demanded an investigation into how the virus started and was able to spread so far and so fast. It has infected more than 3.2 million people and killed more than 233,000 to date, according to Johns Hopkins University.

China has rejected the demands, dismissing any suggestion that it mishandled the outbreak when it appeared in the central city of Wuhan. The Chinese Communist Party has been accused of trying to cover up the initial outbreak and underreporting the number of infections and deaths from the virus.

Von der Leyen told CNBC Thursday that transparency was vital to ensure no repeat of the pandemic. "I think this is for all of us important, I mean for the whole world it is important," she explained.

"You never know when the next virus is starting, so we all want for the next time, we have learned our lesson and we've established a system of early warning that really functions and the whole world has to contribute to that."

"One of the lessons learned from this pandemic is that we need more robust data, overall, and we need more centralized than an entity that is analyzing those data so that the early warning mechanism is way better," von der Leyen added.

The Commission chief did not directly mention China, but instead used the EU as an example. "At the level of the European Union, we know that we need a more robust data system for such situations as we see it right now with the coronavirus," she said. "And for building up a system that is, that you can count on."

EU-China relations have come into focus in the past week after the bloc published a report suggesting that Beijing—among other actors—has been spreading disinformation regarding the pandemic.

The report was allegedly watered down after Chinese threats, though EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell denied that the bloc buckled under Chinese pressure. However, Borrell has not denied that China protested over the report.

Asked whether the pandemic could damage EU relations with China, von der Leyen replied: "No, I don't think so, because it's all in our own interest. I mean, this pandemic has caused so much damage."

"So it's in our own interest, of every country, that we are better prepared the next time," she explained. "We will, we do not know when such a crisis occurs again, but we should be better prepared now."

On Tuesday, Chinese Vice Premier Le Yucheng again denied that Beijing is in any way responsible for the pandemic. Le told NBC News: "China has been open, transparent and responsible in its COVID-19 response. We did not cover up anything, and did not delay any efforts. We have already publicized the timeline of how we have shared the information on COVID-19."

Ursula von der Leyen, China, coronavirus, investigation
This file photo shows European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on April 23, 2020. OLIVIER HOSLET/EPA/AFP via Getty Images/Getty