Brussels / London (dpa) – In the dispute over the scarce corona vaccine, Great Britain is confident that it can avert export bans from the European Union.
“After discussions with EU partners in recent months, I am sure they don’t want any blockages,” said Bloomberg’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “I think that’s really, really important.” The European Commission made it clear in Brussels that it actually did not want any export bans. But the EU must order vaccines from manufacturers quickly and reliably.
Last weekend, Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, threatened in particular the British-Swedish manufacturer Astrazeneca with an export ban. The company had unilaterally drastically reduced its deliveries to the EU: instead of the 120 million vaccine doses originally envisaged, only 30 million should arrive in the first quarter and 70 million instead of 180 million doses in the second quarter.
In principle, the EU accuses Britain of not exporting vaccines, but of using supplies from EU countries itself. According to information from EU circles, around 18 million vaccine doses have so far gone from the EU to the United Kingdom. Great Britain is currently hoping for a supply of Astrazeneca from a factory in the Netherlands, especially as vaccines in the UK are in danger of becoming scarce.
Astrazeneca itself says almost nothing about the conflict. When asked, Vice President Ruud Dobber only said that the Dutch factory hardly played a role in the supply chain. “We are doing our best to get all the cans to the Europeans,” said Dobber.
Johnson said that in Preston, Northern England, the UK would continue its vaccination program at full speed. The development and production of vaccines are international projects that require international cooperation, he emphasized. According to information from the BBC, Prime Minister wants to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron not to block exports before Thursday’s EU summit. The prime minister is said to have spoken to both on Sunday.
The EU summit will discuss von der Leyen’s proposals for further export restrictions. However, it is not yet clear how far the measures could go and to whom exactly they would apply. “We all have to wait a little longer for the exact proposals,” said Commission spokesman Eric Mamer. For now, von der Leyen’s calculation seems to threaten governments and manufacturers to talk about faster deliveries to the EU, if possible.
Because export restrictions are also controversial in the EU. Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin spoke out against it on RTÉ on Monday: “I am very much against it, I think it would be a very backward step.” He warned against undermining the supply chains of other vaccine manufacturers such as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson over the Astrazeneca problem.
SPD MEP Bernd Lange also criticized it. “That only gives others an excuse to interrupt supply chains,” said Lange of the German news agency. The EU should rather punish the delivery problems at Astrazeneca with contractual fines. “I don’t understand why the export control gun is being taken out of the basement,” said the trade expert. The head of the pharmaceutical and chemical company Merck in Darmstadt, Stefan Oschman, told the Handelsblatt: “A vaccine war will harm everyone.”