The refusal of the Government of Boris Johnson to export the doses produced in its territory by AstraZeneca has led the European Commission to further toughen the export control mechanism for vaccines against covid-19 . According to his proposal, the European Unionit will not only take into account whether manufacturers comply with advance purchase contracts signed with the Twenty-seven.
From now on they will also examine whether the destination country restricts the shipment to the EU of antidotes or material to manufacture them, the epidemiological situation and the level of vaccination. Two criteria that could facilitate the ban on the export of antidotes to the United Kingdom, with an immunization level much higher than that of the Twenty-seven.
Hours after unveiling this plan, Brussels and London issued a joint statement announcing their willingness to ” cooperate .” “In the end, openness and global cooperation from all countries will be key to overcoming the pandemic and ensuring better preparation to face future challenges,” they added.
The UK has so far been the biggest beneficiary of European exports. Since the entry into force of this control mechanism, which will be in force until at least the end of June, the EU has approved 380 export applications – it has rejected only one from Italy to Australia – which have allowed 43 million doses to be sent to 33 countries.
United Kingdom (10.9 million), Canada (6.6 million), Japan (5.4 million), Mexico (4.4 million), Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Chile (1.5 million respectively), Hong Kong (1.3 million), Korea and Australia (1 million each).
These figures confirm, according to sources from the Community Executive, that the review of the mechanism does not seek to prohibit but rather to guarantee access to a fairer quota. “380 export decisions and only one blocked show that it is not our intention to block anything.
On the contrary, The EU is the main exporter. It is the only bloc that is exporting vaccines to the rest of the world but we have to ensure access for our citizens.” European sources insist.
Exam of Twenty-seven
The plan will be examined during the videoconference of EU heads of state and government that takes place this Thursday, although the different sources consulted advance that a decision is premature given that the proposal is barely twenty-four hours old and the different views that prevail among the Member states.
Among those who believe that a strong response must be given to the delays in the distribution of vaccines and the blockade imposed by certain countries and those who fear unleashing a trade war and even disruptions in the vaccine production chain.
“Trade flows are interdependent and we do not want a domino effect in terms of the breakdown of the production chain” but “we are not going to be the only ones who do not have an agile and robust instrument to prevent being pagan”, maintain Spanish diplomatic sources . “Having the stick is fine but it should be enough.
When we use it, hopefully it is not necessary,” add Dutch sources who consider the generalized retaliation strategy negative. and that they hope they won’t have to use it if it is approved. “Anything we do to close exports will ultimately hurt us,” so “we are against anything that makes life more difficult for us,” they say.
Reciprocity and proportionality
According to the proposal, from now on, the European Commission and the Member States would not only take into account when evaluating export applications that the pharmaceutical companies with which they have a production contract meet deadlines and deliveries. They will also ensure in their analysis that there is reciprocity and proportionality.
“We continue to see a deficit and that is why we propose to review the instrument with new criteria, although it will be analyzed on a case-by-case basis,” said the health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides . Brussels has also decided to include in the mechanism exports to 17 neighboring countries that were previously exempt. These include, for example, Switzerland, Israel, Norway or Serbia, among others.
“While our Member States are facing a third wave of the pandemic and not all companies honor their contracts, the EU is the only major OECD (vaccine) producer that continues to export vaccines on a large scale to dozens of countries. But the roads should be open in both directions.
That is why the Commission introduces the principles of reciprocity and proportionality ”, justified the president of the Community Executive, Ursula von der Leyen , who will present her plan to European leaders.