EU chaos as Austria warns of split in Europe over vaccine distribution

EU slammed on vaccine rollout by Martin Schirdewan

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Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said doses of the vaccine should be distributed according to the percentage of the population instead of allowing countries that ordered more to receive more. He said the existing vaccine distribution policy risked a split in Europe and insisted on urgent action to correct imbalances despite resistance from Germany.

The citizens of Europe rightly expect us to find a solution to the vaccine distribution

Sebastian Kurz

Mr Kurz said: “We cannot have any interest in the fact that the gap within the European Union in terms of vaccination coverage for the population is widening and that we are creating second-class EU member states.”

He said EU leaders agreed in January to deliver the vaccine proportionally according to the population key at the same time.

But he added: “It turned out, however, that the vaccines are not delivered according to the population key, but according to the order quantity.

“Without correction, this would mean that some member states would already achieve so-called herd immunity at the end of May, while other countries would not achieve so-called herd immunity until late summer or towards the end of the year.”

The Austrian Chancellor announced he planned to raise the issue again at and EU video summit.

He said: “This is a highly political question that cannot be resolved on a technical level.

“I will therefore raise this issue together with other member states who also want to solve this problem at the video conference of the European Council if by then a satisfactory solution is not found for all Member States.

“The citizens of Europe rightly expect us to find a solution to the vaccine distribution, because solidarity within the European Union is at stake.”

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Mr Kurz insisted he “fully supported” the goal of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to have offered 70 percent of all adults a vaccination by summer.

He was speaking after the German government rejected his request to retrospectively correct the vaccine distribution within the EU.

Germany’s minister for Europe Michael Roth said there was “currently no reason” to change anything in the distribution mechanism which he described as fair, transparent and took EU solidarity into account.

Earlier this month six EU countries had called for a “correction mechanism” because they felt they were at a disadvantage in the allocation of vaccines.

In addition to Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Latvia have also complained.

Ms von der Leyen proposed using an additional ten million doses of the vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer for the second quarter for compensation.

But Mr Roth refused such corrections and said Austria and the other countries, like all EU member states, had the option of ordering quantities of vaccine according to their population but chose not to do so.

He said: “I don’t believe at all in constructing a conflict out of this that needs healing.”

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Britain and the EU are in talks to resolve a dispute over vaccine supplies as Boris Johnson warned a trade war over jabs would result in “considerable” and “long-term” damage.

A joint statement said the two sides were seeking a “win-win” deal to increase supplies across the UK and EU.

It came after the European Commission set out a tougher regime to stem supplies of jabs to nations faring better in the pandemic as the bloc’s states faced a third wave of cases.

Admitting it is a Covid-19 “hotspot”, the European Commission said on Wednesday it may not approve exports to nations with more advanced vaccine rollouts or where there is a better “epidemiological situation”.

The EU announced the move as it is embroiled in a row with AstraZeneca over supplies, but did not rule out Pfizer jabs being restricted to the UK if sufficient vaccines are not shipped to the bloc.

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)

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