Britain’s former Europe Minister calls for probe into EU’s Coronavirus vaccine strategy

The European Commission has consistently defended the strategy but, compared with countries like the UK, Israel and the US, all Member States are far behind on their vaccination rollout.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

09 Feb 2021

Latest figures show that the UK has vaccinated about the same number of people as vaccinated by the whole of Europe combined, something even Angela Merkel admits “rankles” with her.

Speaking to this website, Denis MacShane, Europe Minister in the UK under former Prime Minister Tony Blair, says that MEPs should set up a “full committee of inquiry to find out what went wrong with the EU procurement programme.”

He added, “Health was always jealously guarded as a national competence.”

MacShane says a series of key questions need to be asked and a committee of inquiry is best placed for that.

He asked, “What was the role of the Cypriot Health Commissioner, Mrs Kyriakides? Did the departure of Martin Selmayr mean the Berlaymont command and control machine wasn't properly working?”

“What was the role of the environment committee and its chair Pascal Canfin? AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech have delivered vaccines but why not Sanofi or other EU vaccine manufacturers?”

He said, “Given that no one in the UK is calling for Boris Johnson to go despite his presiding over 103,000 deaths of British citizens thanks to his disastrous handling of Covid, it is hard to see why Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has been badly let down by the British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca, should go.”

The former cabinet minister said, “At least the vaccine mess-up and the short-lived row over invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol proves that, far from Brussels being all powerful at the heart of a European super-state, it has been Member States who were unable at an early stage to cooperate fully, and in the case of some official invoking Article 16, it needed one phone call from the prime minister of a small EU Member State was enough to cause the Commission to crash into reverse and cancel a decision it had taken.”

“What was the role of the environment committee and its chair Pascal Canfin? AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech have delivered vaccines but why not Sanofi or other EU vaccine manufacturers?” Denis MacShane, former UK Europe Minister

Further comment on what many see as a failed EU vaccine strategy came from Romanian MEP Cristian Terheș, who told this site that Ursula Von der Leyen should quit.

The ECR member said, “German press articles relate about how, in her previous ministerial experience, Von Der Leyen over promised, under-delivered and moved on before anybody could assess her achievements.”

“However, the political test results have come in early. The vaccine procurement process of the EU has been a disaster led by irresponsible people. Former Commission service head Martin Selmayr was so desperate he related how well the EU is doing in comparison to Africa.”

He added, “Von der Leyen must resign before she does any more damage to EU solidarity and puts the lives of Europeans in danger. Surely the European Parliament can see that this minister who failed in Germany is over-promoted and out of the touch with the reality as Commission head. Her temporary imposition of a vaccine blockade on Northern Ireland was the last straw.”

At a Commission news briefing, a spokesman said that as part of its response to the criticism it had decided to set up a vaccines task force.

The spokesman told reporters, “It has always been clear that vaccine manufacture is a complex process and that the supply chain dimension is particularly important. We are keeping a close eye on this to ensure that the manufacturers have access to necessary components.”

“Thierry Breton has now been asked to chair a task force to deal with any bottlenecks of vaccines. This is something that is on our radar. We have seen recently that events can unfold quite rapidly but we are still counting on having 300m doses available and possibly more if other vaccines are approved. We will do all in our power to do this and we also count on manufacturers doing this too.”

“The vaccine procurement process of the EU has been a disaster led by irresponsible people. Former Commission service head Martin Selmayr was so desperate he related how well the EU is doing in comparison to Africa”

Cristian Terheș, ECR

“One of the things the task force will focus on is preparatory work for any necessary adjustments of vaccines to the new variants. We have learned from past crises but, with hindsight, it is easy to say we should have done this and we should have done that.”

“Another task for the task force will be to prepare for the future, including our bio defence policy. It will also look at how we can work with industry and these pharma companies on short term production so that there are no bottlenecks.”

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