BRUSSELS (AP) – EU vaccine policy rose sharply on Friday, accusing Britain of blackmail, an unfair practice among EU members as the bloc rallied to increase production, and import controls to prevent another deadly outbreak of coronavirus infections.
Underscoring the smooth inter-city relations, French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian used the imperfect export of EU goods to Britain, where the EU approved the export of 21 million doses, but since the vaccination began in December, they have not gone any other way.
The UK has adopted a policy of giving the first dose of the vaccine to as many people as possible. Le Drian said this meant the country would struggle to get enough shots to get a second shot, and that the British government was pushing for more reserves at the cost of an EU vaccine.
“You can not play like this, with a little blackmail, in the sense that you wanted to vaccinate with the first dose at any cost, but for the second you feel a little disruptive,” Le Drian told France Info. “Europe has no choice but to pay the price for this policy.”
Britain has denied the allegations, saying it was confident it would have adequate stockpiles of vaccines, but stressed that tensions were high.
Britain’s exit from the EU, which ended on January 1, had already worsened relations, with 47% of the British population receiving the vaccine, compared to only 14% of people in the 27-nation bloc.
To avoid losing vaccines to Britain in particular, EU leaders on Thursday backed an export control system aimed at maintaining doses in the EU until the manufacturer completes its shipping contracts with EU countries.
EU leaders have accused the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca of making a deal with Britain ahead of its promises.
Britain says it first signed a vaccine deal with AstraZeneca and warned the EU to suspend its contracts.
“It would be very harmful if countries started to build bridges, to prevent the international borders of vaccines, drugs or their elements, from crossing the international border. The UK is strongly against it,” said Robert Enrique, the British Prime Minister. The two sides plan to hold talks over the weekend to find a common language.
There is also no common position on Britain in the bloc. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said that the blockade would create total resources, adding that “we absolutely must not achieve it, we will not achieve it.”
The EU is not only dealing with its border issues, but also internally.
EU leaders have been unable to resolve the dispute over the distribution of COVID-19 shots among member states after Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Thursday that some countries were receiving more than others for their fair share, such as Croatia and Bulgaria.
Most nations say supposedly short-lived EU members are lagging behind in supplies because they made the wrong choice when it came to choosing a vaccine supplier. AstraZeneca unfortunately has low shipping.
EU ambassadors are now instructed to bring the two sides closer. Kurtz saw the stalemate as a victory on Friday.
“That was the main topic, the discussion lasted for hours.” he said. “At one point, people claimed that Austria was alone. “I can only tell you that one third of all member states strongly, very strongly supported this position.”
Italy’s Draghi warned Kurtz on Friday not to pin his hopes on a new distribution plan, simply because some countries are heavily funding AstraZeneca vaccines that have not been shipped.
“Think of a new distribution model?” “No,” he told a news conference. “Germany և we decided no.”
France is convinced that EU unity is paramount in the vaccine crisis.
“We have a new kind of war ahead of us. “We are facing attempts to destabilize Russia and China, which are trying to influence through vaccines,” said French President Emmanuel Macron after a summit on Thursday. “If we want to survive, we (vaccines) need sovereignty.”
To that end, the vaccine tsar, Thierry Breton, is crossing the alliance of 27 countries, visiting the facilities of several manufacturers in an effort to increase EU autonomy in the coming months.
Visiting a factory near Barcelona, Breton said that there are currently 52 factories developing vaccines across Europe. He says the EU will produce 2 billion or 3 billion doses by the end of the year.
“This will probably make our continent the first continent in terms of production by the end of this year, allowing us to produce 2 to 3 billion doses, of course, for our fellow citizens,” Breton said.
Nicole Winfield from Rome, Angela Charlton from Paris, Ill Ill Lawles from London, Barry Hutton from Lisbon and Samuel Petrekin contributed.