Vaccine row: European Union warned about contracts by Wallace
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Bitter divisions inside Brussels have continued to emerge, particularly over its botched handling of the coronavirus vaccine rollout. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who previously admitted the bloc had had issues in its vaccine programme, has sparked a major row, after she said the EU can “forbid” Brussels-made vaccines from getting sent to the UK. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly ready to speak to leaders, claiming that the vaccination rollout needs “international cooperation”.
He added that “we’re all facing the same pandemic” and “we all have the same problems”.
But Ms von der Leyen herself has been at the centre of fierce criticism as less than 12 percent of EU citizens had received a vaccine.
The UK has vaccinated over 50 percent of Britain’s adult population.
This has seen anti-EU voices grow, especially as the UK – free from the constraints of Brussels – appears to have strengthened its position outside the bloc in recent weeks.
In the immediate aftermath of the UK’s decision to vote for Brexit, the EU was warned it had to address certain issues that plagued Brussels’ reputation with the public.
Calls for harmony and better decision-making were made, amid fears other nations – such as the Netherlands and Sweden – could opt to follow the UK out of the EU.
Among these concerned voices was Maltese MEP Miriam Dalli, who said that although the UK referendum result was “a surreal experience”, it was time for a reality check.
According to Malta’s independent.com, she argued the EU “needs to do some serious soul-searching and look at this result as the wake up call they so much require”.
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She added: “The EU needs to engage with people and make sure that it addresses the disenchantment that does exist.
“I do not think that this will be the end of the EU, it will be the end of the EU as we know it now but the beginning of a new EU which everyone needs to properly work on to make it a proper success.
“The same applies to Malta.”
Ms Dalli’s comments were echoed by fellow Maltese MEP, Therese Comodini Cachia, who outlined exactly what was needed to ensure divisions over euroscepticism.
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She continued: “The EU should have heeded strong voices calling for a better communication channel and understanding between its representatives and the European citizens.
“The EU should strongly address this.”
But it would appear these warnings may not have been addressed, as the EU argues with itself over its planning for the vaccine rollout.
Countries such as the Czech Republic and Hungary have been forced to ask rival countries for doses of the vaccine as they struggle to contain outbreaks on their soil.
French President Emmanuel Macron also enraged leaders, after he claimed the AstraZeneca jab was “quasi-ineffective” among those aged about 65 years old, hours before EU bodies confirmed it was safe to be rolled out across the bloc.
And last month, it emerged Italy and the European Commission stopped a 250,000 dose shipment of the AstraZeneca jab from going to Australia.
The row over the drug came after AstraZeneca failed in its contractual commitment to the EU over the number of jabs given, leading the Italian government to refuse to export the new doses.
Italy’s request to halt the export was given the all clear by the Commission, under a new control law that came into play at the end of January.
Among the other reasons Rome refused to export the jabs was because it deemed Australia as “not vulnerable” to the coronavirus.
This, it was claimed, was due to its low number of cases on the island.
The bloc had previously vowed to spend big on research on finding a vaccine, but research showed this to be a myth, when compared to investment from nations such as the UK and US.
The US offered £7.9billion, at a rate of £24.02 per person, while the EU lagged behind again, spending just £3.51 per citizen, with an investment of £1.57billion.
Airfinity’s chief executive officer Rasmus Bech Hansen told BBC Radio 4 in February that this early investment from the likes of the UK and US was important.
He said: “In some ways, they’ve taken on much more risk, and that has really been critical in reaching this point — after all, we are getting quite a lot of vaccines at an unprecedented pace.”
Among the difficulties experienced by the EU was production problems with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, which saw a shortfall in the number being delivered to the bloc.
A decision over whether to stop exports of EU-made vaccines from entering the UK will be made on Thursday at a virtual meeting of leaders.
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