In the dispute over scarce vaccines, the EU wants to monitor the export of vaccines more closely in the future. As the tricky Irish-Northern Ireland border came into the picture, outrage was great. Brussels gave in – but wants to continue to show a clear lead.
London / Brussels (dpa) – In the vaccine dispute with Britain, the EU has tried to smooth things out. “Constructive talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” Commission Chairman Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Saturday evening.
“In principle, we have agreed that there should be no restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies if they meet their contractual obligations.”
In response to massive supply constraints by the vaccine manufacturer Astrazeneca, the EU wants to keep a closer eye on how many vaccines produced in the EU are exported. In an initial statement, however, it sounded as if Brussels wanted to carry out checks on the Irish-Northern Ireland border for this project and thus activate an emergency mechanism of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol. The move, which was apparently not coordinated with Dublin or London, aroused outrage in Britain and especially Northern Ireland. With this move, the EU likely wanted to protect itself from unregulated vaccine doses that would reach Britain through Northern Ireland as a back door.
The European Union and the United Kingdom have only one land border, which runs between the EU member state of Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland. However, in the course of the Brexit negotiations it was agreed that no checks should take place at this border so as not to endanger the fragile peace in Northern Ireland’s former civil war region.
It was not until late Friday night that the European Commission admitted and promised in a communication that it would leave the Northern Ireland Protocol “untouched” in export controls on vaccines. The protective measures clause of the protocol is not activated. In the hours before, the dispute had turned into a diplomatic crisis between London and Brussels. Boris Johnson spoke of “grave concern” and Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister Arlene Foster even referred to an “act of hostility”. Despite the EU’s rapid backward motion, events are likely to leave their mark on the already tense relations between the two sides and not make the battle over the costly corona vaccine any easier.
Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, who had previously spoken with Johnson on the phone, also tweeted that she had agreed with Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin on a “satisfactory way” to control vaccine exports. Further details will be announced later this Saturday.
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