The EU wants to control exports of vaccines more closely and stop them if necessary. The main export country is Great Britain. Boris Johnson speaks of “arbitrariness” – and of economic consequences.
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The export of the scarce corona vaccines from the European Union should be more strictly controlled and, if necessary, stopped more frequently. The EU Commission decided on Wednesday to expand the export controls introduced at the beginning of February. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson immediately warned the EU against export bans.
New criteria for the EU export mechanism should in future allow vaccines to be withheld if proportionality and reciprocity are not maintained. However, there should be no general export bans. Exports to developing countries should not be hindered either.
The EU remains open to exports, stressed Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. But the EU countries were in the third wave of pandemics, and not all manufacturing companies were delivering to the EU in accordance with their contract. “We have to ensure fast and sufficient deliveries to EU citizens. Every day counts.”
Largest customer for vaccine from the EU: Great Britain
Since February 1st, vaccine exports from EU countries to many countries have to be registered and approved. However, 17 partner countries were excluded from this coverage, including Israel and Switzerland – these exceptions have now been deleted. Only deliveries to 92 poorer countries via the Covax mechanism of the World Health Organization should be excluded.
According to the commission, 380 applications for deliveries of around 43 million doses of corona vaccine to 33 countries have so far been approved. Only one application was denied – Italy stopped exporting 250,000 doses of Astrazeneca vaccine to Australia. The main recipient country was Great Britain, there alone 10.9 million cans went. Then came Canada (6.6 million), Japan (5.4 million) and Mexico (4.4 million).
“It is not our intention to block things,” EU officials said. The expanded EU mechanism now includes a “justice approach”. In the Commission’s view, the principle of reciprocity means that the recipient country also allows exports of vaccines or components. Proportionality aims at the question of whether the recipient country already has a better pandemic situation and a higher vaccination rate.
According to these criteria, the UK in particular could be the focus of controls. According to the EU Commission, no vaccination doses come from the country into the EU, and the vaccination rate there is higher than in EU countries. But Britain is hoping for supplies of the Astrazeneca vaccine from a plant in the Netherlands.
Johnson: Long-term damage can be “significant”
Johnson said on Wednesday, “I don’t think blocking vaccines or vaccine ingredients makes sense.” The long-term damage could be “very considerable”. The economy could also suffer as a result. Companies would examine “whether it makes sense to invest in countries in which arbitrary blockades are imposed in the future.”
The joint statement by the EU Commission and Great Britain said in the evening: “We are all facing the same pandemic, and the third wave makes cooperation between the EU and Great Britain even more important.” In view of the “mutual dependency” one is working on concrete steps “which we can implement in the short, medium and long term in order to create a win-win situation and to expand the vaccine supply for our citizens”.
With a view to the most recent disputes, Brussels and London announced: “Ultimately, openness and global cooperation between all states will be the key to finally overcoming this pandemic and better adapting to future challenges.”