The 27 support the export control mechanism amid external and internal criticism for its vaccine policy
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The European Union has exported today many more vaccines of which it has administered. Amid doubts about their control mechanism for the delivery of doses, accusations of “nationalism and protectionism” from London and despite the precarious situation of the continent compared to the United States or Israel, the 27 have injected 62 million doses, but they have allowed the exit of 77 million vials. There is talk of delay in contracts, poor management, lack of foresight or investment. There is talk of leadership crisis, innocence, mistakes. Worse even if all that were true, the great reason that explains the differences with the most advanced places on the planet in vaccination rates is that they play by different rules.
Until yesterday we knew the figures for the last two months, when the EU began to require prior permission for exports and comprehensive information, but this Thursday the president of the European Commission has broken down the complete data. The result is striking, because they confirm that the pharmaceutical companies with which the EU has contracts have supplied 88 million doses to the 27, but in the same period 77 million have gone to 33 different countries. To put the amounts in perspective, The UK has received 21 million vaccines from continental factories, but not a single road has left the British facilities towards the EU. Nor have vaccines come out of the US. Everyone is fighting the clock, everyone is in a hurry and fears a supply cut, but only one bloc is fulfilling its obligations to its citizens. with the poorest countries and with their neighbors and partners.
The heads of state and government of the 27 met this Thursday by teleconference to discuss relations with Russia and Turkey, the situation of the euro and industrial policy issues. To also greet the President of the United States, Joe Biden, in a staging of the return to normality after the four years of Trump and the clashes with Beijing and Moscow. But they met, above all, to talk about vaccines and open wars, external and internal.
The situation is very delicate. Fatigue after one year is visible. The countries are once again confined these weeks with much less energy. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel, the strongest pillar, made and admitted a serious mistake this week and backtracked on more restrictive measures. That the Italian authorities will find 29 million vaccines of AstraZeneca on the outskirts of rome of which no one in Brussels was aware has reinforced the feeling that the Anglo-Swedish must be tightened more, but no one is very clear on how to do it without ending in an open confrontation between countries and continents and putting the chain of conflicts at risk. global supplies.
The strengthened mechanism announced on Wednesday by the Commission, and endorsed by the leaders, will allow blocking not only companies that breach their contracts with the EU, but to countries that do not respect “reciprocity and proportionality”. That is, if a government does not allow the export of vaccines abroad, it will not be able to receive vaccines manufactured in EU facilities. And if the authorities consider that an export endangers the European supply, or goes to a country whose situation is clearly better than the continental one (in vaccination rate, for example), it could also be prohibited.
But the issue has made some capitals nervous. They know that the current situation is not fair, but they fear that there is more to lose than to gain, because although there are no doses from the US or the UK, materials do come out. And from Asia too. That is why they ask for prudence. At the same time, Brussels needs to show forcefulness to be respected, by Executives and companies. AstraZeneca, which is in breach. But also Pfizer, that although it is perfectly up to date, it suffers and will suffer more and more pressures. India has announced that it is stalling the exit. The US, since Trump, does. And yesterday Biden, who had promised 100 million doses in his first 100 days, assured that the new goal was 200 million, since the first had been achieved in just 58 days. Something that the EU could almost replicate if it had opted for the same control measures.
But in addition to external problems, the leaders have had to face the internal rebellion led by the Austrian Sebastian Kurz, supported more or less by Czechs and Slovenes. Kurz complains that he doesn’t have enough vaccinations and wants more. It does not ask for solidarity, it demands it. Last year the Commission proposed an equitable distribution system, based on population, to distribute all vaccines from all manufacturers. But the governments wanted to go à la carte, prioritizing according to price, logistics, and trust. That’s why many rejected amounts from Pfizer and bet on AstraZeneca. And they have lost out.
The European Commission convinced Pfizer to advance up to 10 million additional doses, which were scheduled for the second half of the year, for the next three months. And Austria is claiming more than its share. The 27 are willing to show solidarity with the worst hit countries, for whatever reasons, but they do not sympathize with Austria, and they emphasize that in fact their figures are for now better than those of the majority. And Kurz, who depends on the next few months of the AstraZeneca doses that are not going to arrive, stood up. Nobody wanted a technical discussion at the Summit. Ambassadors from at least four countries repeat these days that it was not the place, and that they should not even solve it, but the joint committee created precisely to deal with vaccines, which has representatives of the 27. But Kurz, very questioned, needed a leading role and gamble. It was not a rogue fight, it is not a veto, but it was the staging of discontent and division, the same that contributes to leaving in the world an image of weakness and amateurism. The one that allows less compliant companies to look for shortcuts.
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Source site www.elmundo.es