VDL accused of ‘outrageous jealousy’ after threat to block exports of AstraZeneca vaccine

AstraZeneca: Suspension of vaccine will 'cost lives' says expert

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The European Commission President’s latest remarks underscore the uncertainty swirling around Brussels as criticism mounts over her handling of the bloc’s pandemic response. Meanwhile former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib has launched a scathing attack on the EU for its haphazard approach, claiming it had a “love-hate relationship” with AstraZeneca.

Speaking to Germany’s Funke Media Group, Mrs von der Leyen warned: “We have the option of banning a planned export.

”That’s the message to AstraZeneca: you fulfil your contract with Europe first before you start delivering to other countries.”

While the former German Defence Minister did not mention the UK by name, it seems highly likely that she had it in mind give the bloc’s aborted attempt to ban exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed in conjunction with Oxford University, from the Irish Republic to Northern Ireland earlier this year.

Mr Habib told Express.co.uk: “The EU has a love-hate relationship with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“It needs it but cannot bear to admit it entirely mishandled procurement.

“So it oscillates between trashing the vaccine and blocking its exports.”

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He added: “The blocking of exports is, of course, entirely consistent with the EU’s approach to all international relations. It must get its way if necessary, and often preferably, with material adverse implications for anyone outside its bloc.

“The UK on the other hand has very largely produced what it needs domestically without setting out to damage anyone else’s interests.

“That we are able to do so has sent the EU into fits of outrageous jealousy.”

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Mrs von der Leyen’s latest remarks build on comments made during an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica yesterday.

She commented: ”I ask for greater openness as Europe is among the regions in the world that exports the most, but reciprocity is needed.”

Mrs von der Leyen said the EU was in contact with the United Kingdom over vaccine exports but declined to give details of her talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The issue of reciprocity and the required mechanism would be discussed with other European countries at a meeting next Thursday, she confirmed.

Mrs von der Leyen claimed she was “extremely confident” that Europe’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of its adult population by the end of the summer would be reached despite the recent suspensions and delays of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots in people who had received the shot.

She added that Russia’s Sputnik vaccine was still under review and that there was no evidence as yet of production capacity for the vaccine, a detail required for approval by Europe’s EMA medicines regulator.

Speaking to Express.co.uk earlier this week, David Bull, also a former Brexit Party MEP, said the situation was an indictment of the job which Mrs von der Leyen was doing.

He explained: “The European Union prides itself on protecting its European citizens, and quite frankly the rollout of the vaccine has been so shambolic, I would argue that they’ve put European lives in enormous danger.

“They are also destroying the country’s economies. Now, if you are the leader of that group that is a poor indictment of your performance.

“I think her tenure has been fairly catastrophic. I certainly don’t think she’s got a grip on it.”

Asked whether she should resign from the post she occupied since the end of 2019, he added: “That’s up to the EU.

“But if I was running one of the country’s governments I would be absolutely livid at the way she has handled this.”

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