EU vaccine humiliation: BBC’s Katya Adler predicts growing revolt against Brussels control

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The BBC’s Europe Editor Katya Adler told the Radio 4 Today programme that the European Commission’s plan to take control of the bloc’s vaccine rollout has backfired. Officials in Brussels had hoped that its mass vaccination purchasing scheme would be a symbol of European solidarity and strength. However, amid the ongoing row with AstraZeneca and last night’s threat to suspend parts of the Brexit deal, the BBC correspondent said that Brussels was facing a furious backlash.

Ms Adler said: “The Commission’s U-turn has been welcomed all around, both inside and outside the EU.

“There was an absolute sense of incredulity that the Commission had suggested invoking Article 16, basically suspending parts of the Brexit deal to do with Northern Ireland.

“It was so painfully put together between negotiators on both sides during the Brexit deal.

“In the past, the EU has lectured the UK Government about how you have to respect every letter of that protocol.”

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She continued: “The Commission is in real hot water about its vaccine rollout to the fact that it took this action without talking to member states, even key member states like Ireland.

“Even here in Brussels, people have described it as a blunder, a mistake, a mishap.

“So when the U-turn came, that was welcomed but that has not helped the image of the Commission.

“When the EU looks at this mass vaccine procurement programme, it had hoped it would give a sense of EU strength and EU solidarity but actually it’s just looking like a mismanaged mess.

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“The fears of dwindling supplies of jabs are real in hospitals outside Paris and in Madrid. Portugal and Germany are both sounding the alarm as well. 

“A lot of people are pointing the figure of blame to the Commission, that it was too late to negotiate vaccine contracts, that the EU vaccine body took too long to approve vaccines.

“People across the EU are rolling their eyes.”

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Vaccination programmes across Europe have largely stalled and descended into chaos, with authorities in France, Spain and Portugal forced to stop giving Covid vaccinations due to a supply crisis.

Markus Söder, the Bavarian premier and Germany’s potential future chancellor, said on Friday that the Commission had “ordered too late, and only bet on a few companies, they agreed on a price in a typically bureaucratic EU procedure and completely underestimated the fundamental importance of the situation.”

Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter that he “had hoped not to see the European Union leading the world down the destructive path of vaccine nationalism”.

Ms Adler earlier said: “Although the EU has U-turned on those plans, critics say the damage was already done.

“Brussels previously lectured the UK government about respecting the Irish Protocol – which was painfully and carefully drafted during Brexit negotiations.

“Now the EU seemed quick to undermine the agreement. Member state Ireland felt stung that it hadn’t been consulted.

“This all adds to the impression of chaos surrounding the EU’s vaccine rollout.

“Brussels was already under fire from a growing number of EU countries for having been slow to sign vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical companies.”

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