Rabu, 24 Maret 2021

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UK-EU promise to work together on vaccines

It's been a bit of a rollercoaster few hours in Europe when it comes to cooperation between the UK and EU on vaccines - and it's all a bit complex, but here's how it played out.

Earlier today, the European Union moved towards stricter export controls to ensure there are more COVID-19 vaccine supplies for the bloc.

EU nations feel like they have been specifically stung by the United Kingdom, which has received some 10 million doses from EU plants due to contracts signed with AstraZeneca before the EU managed to strike a deal.

There have been no exports from AstraZeneca plants in Britain to the EU, but the EU has been insisting that two AstraZeneca plants in Britain should also be part of the EU deliveries.

“I mention specifically the UK,” said EU Commission vice president Valdis Dombrovskis. Since the end of January, “some 10 million doses have been exported from the EU to the UK and zero doses have been exported from UK to the EU.” 

 “So it’s clear that we also need to look at those aspects of reciprocity and proportionality,” he said. 

This argument is just the latest in the post-Brexit era, where both sides have been fighting over everything from diplomatic representation to border controls and red tape — but they did not want to take the same confrontational tone over live-saving vaccines, especially when the World Health Organization is raising alarms over rising new infections across Europe. 

So, only hours after the Commission move, both the EU and the UK issued a joint statement, promising more cooperation.

“We are all facing the same pandemic and the third wave makes cooperation between the EU and the UK even more important,” the statement read. 

“In the end, openness and global cooperation of all countries will be key to finally overcome this pandemic and ensure better preparation for meeting future challenges."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said global cooperation over vaccines has been the EU standard.

The bloc has approved sending 41 million vaccine doses to 33 countries in the last seven weeks and believes that it stands at the forefront of international vaccine-sharing efforts.

Some EU member states gearing up for Thursday's summit were fearful, however, that too tough an export stance could amount to a de facto export ban that undermines the EU's reputation as an open trading bloc.

Under a less stringent export control system in force so far, only one vaccine shipment in 381 has been barred. That was the one bound for Australia.

“We have secured more than enough doses for the entire population. But we have to ensure timely and sufficient vaccine deliveries to EU citizens,” von der Leyen said. "Every day counts.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sought to ease the tensions over vaccines, speaking by phone in the past few days to European leaders including von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron.

 “The partnership we have with our European colleagues is very, very important and we continue to work with them,” Johnson told lawmakers on Wednesday. “I don’t think that blockades of either vaccines … or ingredients for vaccines are sensible.”

“I would just gently point out to anyone considering a blockade … that companies may look at such actions and draw conclusions about whether or not it is sensible to make future investments in countries where blockades are imposed,” Johnson said. 

“Vaccines are an international operation,” Johnson says, adding that the UK would “continue to work with European partners to deliver the vaccine rollout.”

So, awkward hug time for the UK and EU.

Reporting with AP

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2021-03-24 20:49:58Z

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