European Union leaders grapple with surge of infections, coronavirus vaccine issues


French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he supported stricter EU export controls on vaccines for drug companies that do not meet their contractual commitments with the European Union.

The EU has been unhappy with slow vaccine rollouts in the EU states and the bloc has blamed pharmaceutical companies - primarily AstraZeneca - for not delivering promised doses, but AstraZeneca has said it honoured its contract.

This week, the European Commission unveiled plans to tighten oversight of vaccine exports.

While the rules will apply to all vaccine makers, they would mainly target AstraZeneca, which the European Union blames for meeting the UK's inoculation targets while failing to meet the bloc's own despite being contract-bound for the same.

"When member states have a lot less vaccines available to them than others, then I think this is a big issue for Europe", Kurz said.

But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters that he had warned Johnson that the Netherlands would enforce any European Union decision to halt Halix exports - even as he hoped that there would be a quick resolution.

The EU is now facing widespread shortages of coronavirus vaccines, with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday threatening to ban the export of AstraZeneca doses out of the bloc until the company fulfills its delivery promises.

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At the end of the summit, the EU's 27 nations were still locked in a dispute over how an upcoming batch of 10 million doses could be allocated to narrow the vaccine gap between member states and the leaders chose to push the talks to a future meeting of their ambassadors. "I support the fact that we must block all exports for as long as some drug companies don't respect their commitments to Europeans".

"Europe is not a selfish continent".

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kryiakides called the approvals of more production plants "a welcome step in increasing EU production capacity: citizens' access to vaccinations must accelerate, every day and every dose counts". Because when I read what the press on the other side of the Channel writes, we're being accused of being selfish. "Actually, none. So we put in place an export control mechanism".

British officials, led by Tim Barrow, the former United Kingdom ambassador to the EU, and European Commission officials will on Saturday hold video conference talks to break the stand-off over a shipment of AstraZeneca jabs at the company's Halix plant in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Although statements like, "new activity restrictions coming as days and weeks ahead" were the gravest, "We were right not to confine in January" and "end the naivety", could placate the listeners. Pfizer and BioNTech in mid-February pledged to deliver 200 million more doses, lifting the bloc's total order to 500 million Comirnaty vaccines.

With the continent in the throes of a third wave, the new legislation seeks to make it more hard to export vaccines manufactured in the bloc, and would most likely adversely impact supplies to Britain.

The mechanism has been criticised outside Europe as it has been compared to an export ban with the potential of triggering retaliation from other countries and, therefore, disrupting the global supply chain of vaccines.

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