EU vaccine row: Ireland urged to go to UK for help as ‘Brussels’ rollout has been dire’

Coronavirus vaccine: European Union citizens receive their jabs

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The bloc’s internal relations soured over the weekend as member states split over the vaccine rollout. On Friday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that vaccine doses were not being spread evenly among member states despite an agreement within the bloc to do so according to population. Addressing European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, he claimed that the rollout isn’t “equal”. He said: “In recent days … we have discovered that … deliveries of vaccine doses by pharma companies to individual EU member states are not being implemented on an equal basis following the pro rata population key.

“We therefore call on you, Charles, to hold a discussion on this important matter among leaders as soon as possible.”

Frustration has been brewing within the EU for months, and the media in many member states has hit out at Brussels.

The Sunday Times Ireland advised the Irish Government in January to take matters into its own hands, but also suggested that Dublin could turn to the UK for help.

The paper said: “The EU’s vaccine performance has been dire, and will cost further lives and livelihoods.

“The Irish Government must do a better job of defending our interests. That might mean asking the British for surplus supplies.

“This should be considered, but probably won’t be, because we would have to swallow our national pride and breach EU solidarity.

“For our Government, indefinite lockdown may be preferable to annoying the European Commission, or not being seen to wear the EU jersey.”

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten warned that eurosceptics could look to capitalise on the vaccine delay.

They said: “It comes as no surprise that Brexit supporters see this as confirmation of their view that Britain is better off outside the EU.

“And this attitude could quickly spread among EU sceptics. Confidence in the EU doesn’t exactly increase when Ursula von der Leyen starts an open row with vaccine suppliers and starts wondering whether to resort to the ultimate protectionist instrument, the export ban.

“Europe is nothing without the European Union, but if the current chaos continues, millions more Europeans are more likely to develop immunity to the EU – long before they get their first Covid vaccination.”

Ilta-Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, hit out at EU leaders and accused Brussels of “shooting itself in the foot” after preventing vaccines from crossing borders.

It said: “Of course the EU must defend its claims, but by preventing vaccines from crossing borders it would be shooting itself in the foot.

“This would hardly increase production or delivery of vaccines in the EU, but it could well drive production out of the EU and boost deliveries to regions outside the bloc.

“‘Solving’ vaccine shortages by disrupting production would be just as stupid as opposing coronavirus restrictions by breaking them and thereby making the epidemic worse.”

From outside the EU, Swiss media outlet Corriere del Ticino claimed failings of the EU’s democratic processes had contributed to the delays.

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It said: “Clearly the European Commission was duped by Pfizer and Astrazeneca when it paid them umpteen million euros as a ‘contribution to research costs’ in exchange for extensive supplies of COVID-19 vaccine for which there were no guarantees.

“If the Commission were subject to real democratic scrutiny by the European Parliament, someone would surely have noticed this and asked how we could be sure that the vaccines would be delivered on time.

“But not only is there no such oversight – since the European Parliament is basically just a review chamber – but the contracts were also kept secret to protect them from public scrutiny.”

In the whole of Europe, the UK has administered the most vaccines overall and also leads in terms of vaccinations per capita of population.

Malta, Serbia and Denmark have also performed strongly on this measure.

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