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HEALTH

EU toughens rules for vaccine exports to avoid shortfalls

The European Union tightened its vaccine export control mechanism on Wednesday to prevent what it sees as an unfair one-way flow of vaccines out of the bloc.

EU toughens rules for vaccine exports to avoid shortfalls
EU commissioner for internal market and consumer protection, industry, research and energy Thierry Breton, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and EU commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, give a press conference following a college meeting to introduce draft legislation on a common EU Covid-19 vaccination certificate at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 17, 2021. JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP

The measure could limit vaccine exports to countries like the UK, which produce some of their own vaccines but do not in turn send doses to the EU.

The EU Commission stated: “We are introducing reciprocity and proportionality as additional criteria to be examined before authorising exports under the EU’s authorisation mechanism for Covid-19 vaccine exports. This will ensure that the EU is able to vaccinate 70 percent of adults by the end of summer.

“We will consider: Reciprocity: whether the destination country restricts its own exports of vaccines or their raw materials, either by law or other means and Proportionality: the epidemiological situation in the destination country, its vaccination rate and vaccine stocks,” the statement published on Twitter read.

“This implementing act is targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary. It is fully consistent with the EU’s international commitment under the World Trade Organization and the G20. We will continue to exclude from this scheme vaccines for humanitarian aid or under COVAX.”

Officials have said they don’t expect the changes to trigger mass export bans of vaccines produced in the EU.

In recent days EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has repeatedly threatened to block the export of vaccines produced in the EU. The threat has been backed by the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel but sparked alarm in the UK, which has imported large numbers of vaccine doses from the EU.

“Europe has taken every step to act fairly and responsibly, mindful of our global leadership role, since the start of the pandemic. The EU remains biggest global exporter of vaccines,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said.

Europe’s battle to prevent a deadly third wave of infections has been complicated by a patchy vaccine drive that included several nations temporarily halting AstraZeneca’s shots in response to isolated cases of blood clots.

Most have since resumed using the vaccine after the European Medicines Agency found it “safe and effective”.

But AstraZeneca has delivered only 30 percent of the 90 million doses it promised the EU for the first quarter.

Member comments

  1. Since the EU has millions of unused doses, the suspicion must be that this action is more about slowing down the UK than speeding up Europe.

    1. Perhaps there is an element of that at some levels but the facts remain that 10million doses have travelled into the UK from EU based sites and none in the other direction. The EU has also been shorted by tens of millions of doses by various manufacturers. It is a shame it is coming to this but it is not unexpected. I think if i’d been calling the shots i wouldn’t have waited to long to take action but that is the EU way, slow and steady(most of the time). We have seen great scientific and business co-operation during the pandemic but incredibly clunky political co-operation. There have been major faults on both sides. Needless to say only 3 months after getting Brexit done, Boris’s government will soon need the EU and the EU the UK. Our economies and people are too interlinked to not have mass vaccination of our population as a priority for both sides. And as a side note i really hope that the sausage situation is sorted soon, I do miss my Lincolnshire and Cumberland sausages from M&S

  2. I think this is both political and the EU trying to deflect blame for the atrocious approach to getting the vaccine and distribution within the EU. They ordered late, it still hadn’t been approved by the EU medicine authority and they were haggling over the price? The vaccines are virtually made to order because of shelf life. Why did they imagine they would start getting them immediately ? Also, none of the other producers of the vaccine have fulfilled their orders but the EU isn’t making a song and dance about them – makes you wonder.

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EUROPEAN UNION

The Euro celebrates its 20th anniversary

The euro on Saturday marked 20 years since people began to use the single European currency, overcoming initial doubts, price concerns and a debt crisis to spread across the region.

The Euro celebrates its 20th anniversary
The Euro is projected onto the walls of the European Central Bank in Brussels. Photo: Daniel Rolund/AFP

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen called the euro “a true symbol for the strength of Europe” while European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde described it as “a beacon of stability and solidity around the world”.

Euro banknotes and coins came into circulation in 12 countries on January 1, 2002, greeted by a mix of enthusiasm and scepticism from citizens who had to trade in their Deutsche marks, French francs, pesetas and liras.

The euro is now used by 340 million people in 19 nations, from Ireland to Germany to Slovakia. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are next in line to join the eurozone — though people are divided over the benefits of abandoning their national currencies.

European Council President Charles Michel argued it was necessary to leverage the euro to back up the EU’s goals of fighting climate change and leading on digital innovation. He added that it was “vital” work on a banking union and a capital markets
union be completed.

The idea of creating the euro first emerged in the 1970s as a way to deepen European integration, make trade simpler between member nations and give the continent a currency to compete with the mighty US dollar.

Officials credit the euro with helping Europe avoid economic catastrophe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Clearly, Europe and the euro have become inseparable,” Lagarde wrote in a blog post. “For young Europeans… it must be almost impossible to imagine Europe without it.”

In the euro’s initial days, consumers were concerned it caused prices to rise as countries converted to the new currency. Though some products — such as coffee at cafes — slightly increased as businesses rounded up their conversions, official statistics have shown that the euro has brought more stable inflation.

Dearer goods have not increased in price, and even dropped in some cases. Nevertheless, the belief that the euro has made everything more expensive persists.

New look

The red, blue and orange banknotes were designed to look the same everywhere, with illustrations of generic Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture to ensure no country was represented over the others.

In December, the ECB said the bills were ready for a makeover, announcing a design and consultation process with help from the public. A decision is expected in 2024.

“After 20 years, it’s time to review the look of our banknotes to make them more relatable to Europeans of all ages and backgrounds,” Lagarde said.

Euro banknotes are “here to stay”, she said, although the ECB is also considering creating a digital euro in step with other central banks around the globe.

While the dollar still reigns supreme across the globe, the euro is now the world’s second most-used currency, accounting for 20 percent of global foreign exchange reserves compared to 60 percent for the US greenback.

Von der Leyen, in a video statement, said: “We are the biggest player in the world trade and nearly half of this trade takes place in euros.”

‘Valuable lessons’

The eurozone faced an existential threat a decade ago when it was rocked by a debt crisis that began in Greece and spread to other countries. Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus were saved through bailouts in return for austerity measures, and the euro stepped back from the brink.

Members of the Eurogroup of finance ministers said in a joint article they learned “valuable lessons” from that experience that enabled their euro-using nations to swiftly respond to fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic.

As the Covid crisis savaged economies, EU countries rolled out huge stimulus programmes while the ECB deployed a huge bond-buying scheme to keep borrowing costs low.

Yanis Varoufakis, now leader of the DiEM 25 party who resigned as Greek finance minister during the debt crisis, remains a sharp critic of the euro. Varoufakis told the Democracy in Europe Movement 25 website that the euro may seem to make sense in calm periods because borrowing costs are lower and there are no exchange rates.

But retaining a nation’s currency is like “automobile assurance,” he said, as people do not know its value until there is a road accident. In fact, he charged, the euro increases the risk of having an accident.

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