In a sideways swipe at those countries, such as the US, which have introduced restrictions on exports of Coronavirus vaccines, von der Leyen told reporters, “All this has been achieved while we have never stopped exports [of vaccines] from the EU.”
She said that of the 700m doses of Coronavirus vaccines produced in Europe since last December, some 350m doses have been exported to over 90 countries.
US President Joe Biden has used the decades-old US Defence Production Act (DPA) to put the US government first in line to buy American-made vaccines and treatments and control the supplies they require.
Von der Leyen, though, invited others to show similar “openness” and said she “looked forward” to hearing what President Biden will say on the issue when they meet in the UK later on Thursday at the G7 summit.
She went on, “It is not just about sharing vaccines but also about developing production”, especially in Africa where less than two percent of the population have been vaccinated.
She said the aim should be to end the pandemic by the end of 2022 but that this was only possible by stepping up global vaccination, adding, “the EU has massively contributed to this.”
“All this has been achieved while we have never stopped exports [of vaccines] from the EU” Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President
She was speaking along with Council president Charles Michel at a news conference in Brussels before leaving for Cornwall for the two-day G7 summit.
The pair also addressed questions about the latest impasse between the EU and UK on the Northern Ireland protocol.
The UK and EU are at loggerheads over checks on goods going between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If no compromise is reached, there are fears of potential violence in Northern Ireland.
The EU said the UK must start checking goods entering Northern Ireland, as agreed in the 2019 Brexit ‘divorce’ settlement. The UK, though, says it is ready to ignore the rules to prevent further disruption - sparking threats of EU retaliation.
Von der Leyen insisted, “This is about implementing what has been agreed. We will show flexibility but the Protocol has to be implemented.”
Von der Leyen told reporters the EU was “determined to make the Irish Protocol work for the benefit of all in Northern Ireland.”
“Both the EU and UK agree that the Protocol is the only solution to ensure the absence of a hard borer in the North. We have a treaty on this - the Withdrawal Agreement - which has been signed by both sides and it is important that we now implement this.”
“We still see fundamental gaps in the implementation of the Protocol and this is something we will discuss at the summit in Cornwall.”
She went on, “We are determined to keep peace and stability in Northern Ireland but we must have deep respect for the Protocol. We are deeply convinced that the UK can work on implementing the Withdrawal Agreement but, if not, it is possible to move forward with remedial measures.”
“This, we should not forget, came about because of Brexit but we must protect the single market and the UK is now a third country.”
Meanwhile, MEPs have expressed support for a temporary lifting of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and related medical products. The move was backed by 355 MEPs with 263 voting against.
The resolution, adopted at the Strasbourg plenary on Thursday, also calls for increased production and manufacturing capacity in developing countries.
MEPs said they now expect Council and the Commission to defend the position internationally, supporting a temporary lifting of intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organisation and to start negotiations “as soon as possible.”
Reacting to the vote, Belgian Greens/EFA MEP Sara Matthieu, shadow rapporteur on the resolution, said, “At present, only about 10 percent of the EU's global exports have been shipped to the least developed countries, and less than 6 percent of the world's population has been vaccinated, while 70 percent of the European population is expected to be vaccinated within the next month. Most of the doses manufactured in the EU have been exported to rich countries.”
“As several variants have and will continue emerging worldwide, reaching herd immunity at the global level is not a question of charity; it is the only way of tackling the pandemic. No one is safe until we are all safe.”