French MEP slams 'laughing stock' EU over vaccine rollout
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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Tuesday he and allies from eastern Europe were pushing for the European Union to adjust the way it distributes COVID-19 vaccines after complaining it was uneven.
Mr Kurz and the leaders of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Latvia and Croatia last week wrote to the heads of the European Commission and Council, saying the distribution was not happening in line with national populations as had been agreed.
The EU has a mechanism for redistributing doses left when others do not take up their full pro-rata allocation, and the Commission has said it is up to member states to decide whether they want to go back to a strictly population-based method.
The Austrian Chancellor told a news conference with his Bulgarian, Czech and Slovenian counterparts after a meeting that the leaders of Croatia and Latvia joined by video link: “It has to be possible here to develop a correction mechanism.”
The Austrian leader shared 100,000 extra vaccine doses from the EU earlier this month.
But Mr Kurz’s opponents have accused him of trying to deflect blame away from his government for the relatively slow pace of vaccinations.
One EU diplomat told Politico: “Now he would like to be compensated by other EU member states for his stingy approach to vaccine purchasing.”
Bulgaria and Latvia have administered a first vaccine dose to the smallest share of their adult populations in the EU, according to the latest weekly report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, at 4.1 percent each.
In Malta, that figure is 14.9 percent. Austria is at 7.8 percent.
The bloc’s slow vaccine rollout has put EU solidarity under strain.
With only about 5 percent of people inoculated so far and the bloc’s target of inoculating 70 percent of its adult population by the end of the summer seen to be increasingly in question.
Commission’s Vice President Frans Timmermans said on Sunday the EU now needs to ensure that “all of Europe gets vaccines”.
Mr Timmermans admitted the Brussels bloc has made mistakes in the procurement of jabs, adding he will like to take stocks of all the issues and flaws of the EU after the pandemic is over.
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He said: “Then we can see what we have done wrong and what we have done right.”
He added: “It is true that mistakes have been made when ordering the vaccines, both in Brussels and in the member states.”
On the same day, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban blasted the EU Commission over its slow vaccine rollout and claimed the bloc’s legislative body “messed up”.
Mr Orban told Hungarian public broadcaster Kossuth Radio on Sunday that he also believed, like Mr Kurz, that the distribution of vaccines across member states should be questioned.
The Hungarian chief said the successful rollout in the UK, Israel and the US was proof something in the EU “is not right”.
He said: “This is a clear indication that something is not right.
“And this is not a political issue or accusation, nor any kind of antipathy towards EU or Brussels bureaucrats, but facts. This is how it is: they’ve messed up.”
Mr Orban said that had Hungary not ordered 3.5 million vaccines from China and Russia, with which it has now inoculated 500,000 people, “we’d be in big trouble right now.”
He said: “The only reason why we’re not in trouble is because an alarm went off in our heads in November, and we entered into talks on [purchasing] other vaccines as well.”
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