EU article 122: What is Article 122? EU threatens legal action amid UK vaccine row

EU: Expert slams Ursula von der Leyen on vaccine rollout

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened legal action against the UK, reopening a dispute with the British government over vaccines that has significantly escalated in recent days. The EU is struggling to speed up the pace of its vaccine rollout, while the UK is one of the world’s leading countries in immunisation distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms Von der Leyen said “all options are on the table” and described the pandemic as “the crisis of the century”. The EUC president told a Brussels press conference on Wednesday: “I am not ruling out anything for now because we have to make sure that Europeans are vaccinated as soon as possible.”

What is Article 122?

Article 122 is an EU legislation, decided upon during the Lisbon Treaty, which makes up part of its Economic and Monetary policy.

The Article 122 law reads: “Without prejudice to any other procedures provided in the Treaties, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may decide, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States, upon the measures appropriate to the economic situation, in particular if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products, notably in the area of energy.”

The second part of the Article reads: “Where a Member State is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may grant, under certain conditions, Union financial assistance to the Member State concerned.

“The President of the Council shall inform the European Parliament of the decision taken.”

In short, the legislation allows the EU to trigger emergency measures in an effort to protect both its financial and population’s welfare.

Article 122 was originally intended as a way around restrictions surrounding financial support.

As a result, the EU has come under intense fire for threatening to invoke this article on a matter such as vaccines, which are largely private property.

Claiming private property is something usually reserved for wartime or genuine emergencies and is normally a power held by sovereign countries, something the EU is not. 

The last time Article 122 was triggered took place during the 1970s and was used to deal with an oil crisis.

If the EU decide to put into action the legislation, essentially, vaccine exports to the UK would be blocked.

The potential use of Article 122 will be discussed by EU leaders at a summit next week, after which a decision is expected to be announced.

Ms Von der Leyen said the EU had exported 10million doses of the vaccine to the UK but had received nothing back in return.

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The EUC president said this had “painfully reduced the speed of the vaccination campaign”, by as much as two thirds.

As things stand, according to Ms Von der Leyen, by June the EU may have received 180million less AstraZeneca doses than it was initially expecting.

She said: “We are exporting to countries that are themselves producing vaccines, and this is an invitation to be open so that you see exports from those countries coming to Europe.”

The UK has vaccinated about 37 percent of its general population with at least one dose of the vaccine and is one of the countries making the most progress on the immunisation front.

The EU has come under further fire as it emerged some member states aren’t even using the vaccine supplies they already have, yet are threatening the UK with further action.

EU governments are understood to have so far received about 62million doses of the vaccine but have only used about 48million jabs.

Of this number, 14.8million were AstraZeneca vaccines and 7.5million haven’t been used at all.

In both Germany and France, around half of their vaccine supply is believed to still be in storage, waiting to be distributed.

The vaccine row further deepened this week when a number of EU countries banned the AstraZeneca vaccine over fear of blood clots, despite the world and EU’s leading public health bodies assuring the move was unnecessary.

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