The tension between the partners of the European Union due to the slow progress of the vaccination campaigns – which began at Christmas – increases day by day.
Five countries, led by the Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, demanded this Saturday in writing the call “as soon as possible” of a European summit to rethink the community strategy. Austria, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Latvia and the Czech Republic require that a fair distribution of the available doses be ensured among the 27 Member States.
The Austrian Chancellor’s revolt against Brussels threatens to turn the next European summit – to be held on March 25 and 26 – into a brawl over vaccines. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, hoped to turn the meeting into a profound geostrategic review to fix the Union’s position in relation to Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey.
But problems in vaccine distribution and disputes between community partners may make it inevitable that the March summit will again focus on the health crisis.
Brussels recognizes that the planned vaccines will not arrive in the second quarter either
“Coordination against covid-19 will be part of the summit’s agenda,” acknowledge sources from Michel’s team. But the President of the Council does not seem ready to call an extraordinary summit before the end of the month, as Austria and its four allies suggest.
The letter, addressed to Michel and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, complains that the distribution of vaccines “is not being carried out in an egalitarian way depending on the population of each state.”
Kurz already raised that complaint at a press conference on Friday, alluding to the redistribution of doses between countries that renounce a part and transfer their quota to another state. “If this system continues to be applied, the differences between states will be created and exacerbated for the summer; some will achieve herd immunity in a matter of weeks and others will be left behind, ”laments the letter.
The European Commission recalled this Saturday in a statement that the contracts negotiated by the agency with the pharmaceutical companies provide that the distribution is made according to the population. And that it has been the governments that have introduced a certain flexibility to redistribute the doses based on the different epidemiological situation that each country experiences.
“It is up to the Member States to decide whether they want to go back to the population-based system,” the Commission notes.
Of the five countries that have protested, Latvia and Bulgaria have received the fewest doses, with only 6.5 and 7.8 per 100 inhabitants respectively, according to data from the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC , for their in English).
Austria (17.9), Slovenia (16.1) and the Czech Republic (14.9) have received amounts similar to those of Spain (16.7) or France (17.9) and more than Italy (12.7 ) or Croatia (12.4).
Some of the states that signed the letter are among those that are making the slowest progress in vaccination campaigns. Both Latvia, which is at the bottom with 4.1% of its population injected with the first dose, and Bulgaria, which has vaccinated 4.7% of its population, are below the average of the members of the European Union (9.4%).
Austria, for its part, has only injected 70.4% of the doses received, one of the lowest rates in the Union.
THE CONTAGIONS ARE PRIMED WITH THE EAST AND THE CENTER
The shock of the new wave of infections has been primed especially in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe that emerged almost unscathed from the first wave. The Czech Republic, with 1,572 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, is the EU country with the highest number of infections.
In Slovakia, the Health Minister was forced to resign last Thursday, when the country had the second highest death rate in the Union, behind neighboring Czech Republic.