The move by Austria and Denmark to move independently on second-generation vaccines for covid variants and to announce partnerships with Israel for the production of the serum bears all the signs of the failure of the European vaccination campaign. But in the EU Commission they take it as if it were not they who proposed the European Health Union months ago. “Vaccinations are the responsibility of the Member States”, stresses the spokesman of Ursula von der Leyen, Eric Mamer, who even today, with the other spokesmen of Palazzo Berlaymont at the daily press briefing, had to fight back to questions about a European vaccination campaign that does not take off, so much so that states are trying to organize themselves. It is not the end of the EU (not yet at least), but certainly in these conditions not even the Health Union takes off. In the Commission they spread their arms.
The initiative of the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz does not seem impromptu. It takes up the thread of an idea born last year, when the head of the government of Vienna created the so-called ‘First mover group’ together with Denmark, Greece and the Czech Republic – EU member countries – and Norway, which was then joined by Israel, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. This is a group of countries whose leaders are convinced that international organizations such as the World Health Organization and even the European Union have been slow in managing the pandemic. This is why they now want to coordinate by studying common solutions to avoid throttling the economy with excessive restrictions and to avoid delays and inefficiencies even in the vaccination campaign.
Kurz’s first move is to make an official visit to Israel with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen this week. Objective: to start “a collaboration on the production of vaccines”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced yesterday. “Austria, Denmark and the members of the ‘First Mover’ group will no longer rely on the EU in the future and, together with Israel, will produce second-generation vaccine doses to deal with further coronavirus mutations,” says Kurz.
Not only Israel: last Friday, the Austrian Chancellor also had a telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin with whom he explored the possibility of importing the Russian Sputnik vaccine into Austria and starting a collaboration with Moscow to produce the serum together.
But above all, Kurz’s initiative breaks a taboo among the most pro-European countries.
So far only Hungary and Slovakia have imported Sputnik without waiting for the authorization of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Czech Republic also says it is ready to do the same thing, Poland is negotiating with China. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban even vaccinated himself with the Chinese Sinopharm serum. But the countries of the East – as we know – have always wrested ample room for maneuver from Brussels, even in their EU membership. The case of Austria is different, a country very close culturally and politically to Germany, the backbone of the Union. More than Brussels, Kurz’s setback directly affects Angela Merkel in her attempt to set up a European vaccination campaign, together with the president of the EU Commission, the German von der Leyen.
“We look at what is happening outside the EU – continues Mamer from the press room of the EU Commission – but there are things that belong to the EU and others that belong to the States”. Of the series: the Commission does its own, but then the problem is that the EU is not a state but a ‘sum’ of 27 different countries. “In Europe we have 450 million people to vaccinate, Israel has only 10 million. You also need to have a sense of proportion .. And then Europe has 27 states with different health structures… ”, adds von der Leyen’s spokesman. The European Commission made its mistakes – recognized by the president – in the negotiations with Big Pharma, but it also pays for the weakness inherent in a Union that is not a federal state.
Anyway, now the slope is very dangerous. They also noticed this in Brussels. It will also be for this reason that Kurz’s move tends to be justified from the palaces of European politics: to play down.
“Member States have always had the opportunity to close contracts with companies that are not part of the EU strategy – says a spokesman for the Commission – The Covid virus affects the whole world, the lessons we can learn from different approaches, from different parts of the world , they are always welcome, as they can strengthen us ”. As for the future, the European strategy on vaccines remains in place, with the “Hera incubator”, to develop the vaccine against covid variants, an incubator “which benefits all Member States”, and with the task force of the commissioner at ‘Thierry Breton industry to increase production. “So far, no state has told us that they want fewer doses. On the contrary: everyone wants to continue being part of the program, but some are moving to prepare for the future on variants ”.
Even if it is stormy outside or perhaps for this very reason, Brussels uses the conciliatory tone, to “not put the cart before the horse”, they say in the Commission, in order not to jump to very dangerous conclusions. Paolo Gentiloni exalts the European effort. “Everyone recognizes their responsibilities, but thank goodness we have a common ‘procurement’ of anti-Covid vaccines in Europe, says the Commissioner for the Economy at a hearing in the Italian Parliament. “Think about what the warfare between the 27 European countries would be to obtain the vaccine, perhaps through more or less probable intermediaries, perhaps through a black market that unfortunately exists, perhaps with guarantees on the cold chain or on the quality of the procacciato a a little less robust than the European ones “.
But in the meantime Kurz’s ‘First mover group’ takes its first steps outside of Europe. It could also end up as just another pressure group on Brussels, like the Visegrad quartet in the east or the countries of the ‘Hanseatic League’ in the north. But it would not be good for European unity. The Union of health then, this unknown. The reverberations of the Austrian initiative are all anti-Union and, coincidentally, Matteo Salvini collects them in Italy: “Not only the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, now Austria and Denmark are also looking for vaccines without waiting for the European Union. The priority is to defend and protect the health of citizens. Italy follow suit ”.
Source site www.huffingtonpost.it