Friday, 16 Apr 2021

‘We’re not a punching bag!’ EU hits back at vaccine rivals and threatens ‘sanctions’

European Parliament is ‘not a punch bag’ says David Sassoli

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President Sassoli insisted the European Union is not a “punching bag” and will no longer accept obstacles to its common vaccination programme. Brussels has been threatening to impose stricter control on the exports of the coronavirus vaccine from the bloc to third-countries after suffering severe delays in delivering the jab to its own citizens. AstraZeneca has sparked particular fury from the EU after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claimed the Anglo-Swedish company had been reneging on its contractual obligations towards the bloc.

Mr Sassoli insisted the EU “must ensure contractual obligations from pharmaceutical companies are respected.”

He added: “We cannot allow for any distraction in this phase.”

The European Parliament president also commended the European Commission for the hard stance taken on the extension of export sanctions, saying they were going “in the right direction.”

Mr Sassoli said: “There needs to be reciprocity and proportionality.

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“We can’t allow vaccines to go to countries that don’t need them.”

Ursula von der Leyen began this week warning the Commission may seek to impose a ban on AstraZeneca’s UK-bound exports after repeatedly accusing the company of failing to meet its delivery pledge.

Mrs von der Leyen said: “While our member states are facing the third wave of the pandemic and not every company is delivering on its contract, the EU is the only major OECD producer that continues to export vaccines at large scale to dozens of countries.

“But open roads should run in both directions. This is why the European Commission will introduce the principles of reciprocity and proportionality into the EU’s existing authorisation mechanism.”

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK is “going to keep working with our EU partners and our friends” as diplomatic efforts continue.

“One thing I am firmly libertarian about is free trade and I don’t want to see blockades of vaccines or of medicines, I don’t think that’s the way forward either for us or for any of our friends,” he told reporters.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested the EU had not done such a good job as Britain in negotiating contracts with vaccine manufacturers.

“Our contract trumps theirs. It’s called contract law – it’s very straightforward.”

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the plans ahead of a virtual summit of European leaders on Thursday and called for greater production of vaccines on the continent

“We can see clearly that British facilities are producing for Great Britain.

“The United States is not exporting, and therefore we are dependent upon what can be produced in Europe,” she said.

But former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged the European Union to step back from waging a “stupid vaccine war” with the UK.

He warned that threatening export bans could cause “major reputational damage” to the bloc as EU leaders held discussions on tightening restrictions to supplies of coronavirus jabs.

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