Before the EU summit: dispute over vaccine distribution

Status: 25.03.2021 02:33 a.m.

At the center of today’s virtual EU summit is the dispute with AstraZeneca. While a new distribution system is still being discussed, the EU is speeding up with the vaccination certificate.

From Stephan Ueberbach,
ARD studio Brussels

It’s all about Corona again. The merciless pandemic not only shrinks the summit planned as a face-to-face meeting into a video switch, but also dictates the agenda. The focus is still on the sluggish vaccination campaigns and the dispute with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

Stephan Ueberbach

Stephan Ueberbach
ARD studio Brussels

Stricter export controls and an expansion of production capacities are intended to improve the supply of vaccines. The Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also calls for a new distribution system. Like Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Latvia and the Czech Republic, Austria also feels disadvantaged by the current delivery schedules.

These delivery schedules are clearly in contradiction to the political goal of the EU, namely that all member states should receive their share of vaccination doses equally per capita.

Debate about a new distribution system

However, the move by Austria’s Chancellor has little chance of success. The German government, for example, points out that although the vaccination doses are allocated according to the size of the population, not all countries actually buy the full portion to which they are entitled. Others can then access the rest.

“I am surprised that the impression arose as if we are not ready or able to show solidarity – the opposite is the case,” says the German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth. The vast majority of EU states agree – and consider a new distribution system to be superfluous.

Speed ​​with the vaccination certificate

The situation with the European vaccination certificate is completely different. Proof of vaccinations, negative corona tests or survived Covid-19 diseases should ensure more freedom of travel before summer if possible, the heads of state and government agreed at the last summit. A proposal from the EU Commission is now on the table. The European Parliament, which has to approve the regulation, is also slowing down. Manfred Weber, leader of the Christian Democrats:

The people in Europe are waiting for this certificate. In the border regions in particular, there is already major damage with closed crossings because there is no uniform certificate for vaccinations or test results. It is urgently needed and as soon as possible.

Dealing with Turkey is also an issue

In the foreign policy part of the summit, the focus is again on the relationship with Turkey. From an EU perspective, there have recently been positive signals from Ankara, for example in the dispute over the Turkish gas drilling off the coasts of Greece and Cyprus. By withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention for the Protection of Women from Violence, President Erdogan caused outrage in Brussels.

A report by the EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell on the current situation provides for leverage such as political and economic sanctions, but also possible incentives such as a renewed customs union. French President Macron, one of the strongest critics of Turkey in the EU, does not want to let the thread of the conversation with Ankara tear, but believes that further cooperation is necessary, especially on refugee policy.

Yes, we need a dialogue with Turkey, and yes, we must do everything we can to ensure that it does not turn its back on Europe and continue to turn to religious extremism or to make geopolitical decisions that are even more dangerous for us.

Today’s summit day ends with a premiere. In the evening, the new US President Joe Biden from Washington is switched on. A clear signal that the USA and the European Union are relying on a fresh start after the change in power in the White House and the four rather gloomy Trump years.

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