EU vaccine rollout shortcomings addressed by von der Leyen
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Six member states have now opted for deals on vaccine doses outside the EU Commission’s official procurement for the bloc, sparking the furious reaction of Paris and Berlin. Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland have unveiled plans to go it alone with vaccine deals with Russia, China and Israel.
The move sparked outrage in France and Germany, given French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were the masterminds behind the EU’s Recovery Fund and vaccination project.
A French diplomatic official said states breaking away from the bloc to buy their own Covid jabs was “unacceptable”.
They told Politico: “It’s unacceptable that those who benefit the most from European solidarity spit in its face.”
They argued France and Germany have been “breaking their backs” to defend European solidarity and are ready to send a “stern” ultimatum to rebels across the bloc along the lines of “quit this game”.
The official said France and Germany were the two countries who needed the joint strategy the least but have been sticking to the plan in the name of EU unity.
The mood among citizens of France and Germany, however, does not appear in line with the French official’s stance.
A survey conducted by Kekst CNC, a Munich-based consultancy group, revealed only 18 percent of the public in France and 23 percent in Germany were satisfied with the progress of vaccination in their countries.
Among the Germans surveyed, 51 percent believed Brussels mishandled its process of acquiring the vaccines.
Both countries are currently behind the EU average with smaller nations including Hungary, Denmark and Cyprus leading the way in the bloc.
Only 5 percent of Germans and 4.4 percent of the French have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
The move from the six EU rebels has also caused a bitter divide between southern and northern states in the bloc.
Pro-EU Italian coalition party PD (Democratic Party) lashed out against Austria and Denmark after they announced they will make a deal with Israel for the procurement and production of Covid jabs.
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The party’s spokesman, Leonardo Cecchi, said member states closer to Angela Merkel’s Germany are never judged as harshly as southern countries when they break from the bloc’s rules.
He blasted on Facebook: “Austria announces the break with the EU and the EMA and says it intends to start producing vaccines with Israel. Denmark follows.
“Obviously this weakens the Union as a whole, and therefore us too.
“Moreover, on a very delicate issue: the health of EU citizens.
“But I want to understand one thing. How does it work that the beggars, the hustlers, the crafty ones to be reproached and always look down upon are always the Italians or in any case Mediterraneans, whilst the Germanic countries do the greatest damage?
“Why is there no harshness towards them, often even paternalistic, which is held instead towards us?
“Had we done such a thing today we would be in all the German, Austrian, Danish and Dutch newspapers with photos of caricatured moustached individuals with guns in hand shooting vaccines, while eating spaghetti and playing the mandolin, with anthropological opinions on us being irresponsible and messy people.
“They do it and it’s okay.”
But the PD’s reaction to Austria and Denmark’s announcement was not shared by their Italian rivals and coalition partners League.
Instead, Matteo Salvini’s party congratulated the two member states for their decision to take vaccine orders into their own hands and argued Italy should soon follow suit.
League MEPs signed a parliamentary note on Tuesday denouncing the EU’s chaotic handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its vaccine procurement strategy.
The note read: “The announcement by Austria and Denmark that they will no longer rely on the EU and want to proceed independently to procure vaccines, followed by the statements of the European Commission on the legitimacy of this decision, represents yet another and sensational confirmation of the failure of the strategy carried out so far from Brussels.
“To the detriment of the few vaccines distributed so far, this adds the mockery of a U-turn compared to what was claimed until yesterday.
“Vienna did well, as well as other EU countries, to seek vaccines independently, without waiting for delays and European bureaucracies.
“Italy should follow suit, carrying out the vaccine production plans proposed by Matteo Salvini and the League and intensifying every effort to obtain as many vaccines as possible, to protect the health of citizens.”
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