Sebastian Kurz throws the bomb: Austria and Denmark “no longer intend to rely on the EU and will develop second-generation vaccines against coronavirus mutations together with Israel and will jointly search for treatments”. Vienna and Copenhagen point the finger at the slowness of EMA, the European Medicines Agency, which in the absence of the fast track of emergency procedures has taken longer than the US or the UK to give the green light to the first immunizers.
The two “frugal” break the European front to converge with the country that boasts the highest number of vaccinated people in the world. And the EU is already earthquake by the decision of some Eastern countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia but also Croatia to turn to Russia to obtain the Sputnik vaccine, anticipating a possible Ema ok, which has not yet received the request for authorization from Moscow.
So much so that the League with a populist vocation has awakened and, in a statement, made it known that the move by Vienna and Copenhagen “represents the umpteenth and sensational confirmation of the failure of the strategy carried out so far by Brussels”. Kurz and Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredriksen launch the challenge to the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, but also to Angela Merkel, sponsor of the entrustment of negotiations with pharmaceutical companies to Brussels.
“In principle”, the Austrian Chancellor stressed, “it is right to rely on the EU”. But in addition to the slowness of the EMA, Kurz points the finger at “bottlenecks in productions”. An Austrian government source points out that “we are talking about future agreements, which could be valid starting from the autumn of 2021, and which do not intend to be alternatives, but complementary to the European agreements”.
For this reason, despite the tension in Brussels, for now, the European Commission prefers to show that it believes that Kurz’s move is for the internal use of Austrian public opinion. So, the spokesman of the Eurogroup comments: Member States always could close contracts with companies that are not part of the EU strategy. Coronavirus affects everyone and the lessons we can learn from different approaches, from different parts of the world, are always well received, they can strengthen Europe.
Von der Leyen yesterday however wished to reiterate that he is working to equip the EMA with an emergency procedure. It will be needed for the next vaccines, but not for Johnson & Johnson, whose EU green light is expected on March 11, lagging behind international partners. Von der Leyen also remarked that the commitment to increase within a couple of months the production of serums in the continent with the work of the owner of the Industry of Brussels, Thierry Breton.
Kurz and Fredriksen’s initiative was born from the first mover Group, which since April 2020 brings together the European Austria, Denmark, Norway, Greece, and the Czech Republic with Israel, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. For now, other countries have not joined, but they do not exclude that from Vienna it will not happen in the future. Denmark has already done its own thing on the go-go strategy end by adopting the “English line” of single-dose, extending the time for the recall.
A choice that violates EMA recommendations but is proving to be successful: Copenhagen is one of the EU capitals ahead of its time in vaccinations. In recent weeks, Austria and Denmark, along with the Mediterranean, have been among the countries that have asked most strongly for the creation of a vaccination passport. And on this front too, Kurz had threatened bilateral agreements in the absence of European cohesion.