EU: Expert slams Ursula von der Leyen on vaccine rollout
Diplomatic relations between the EU and UK plunged further after Brussels threatened to use sweeping emergency powers to seize “Europe’s fair share” of coronavirus vaccines. The dramatic escalation in tensions saw European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warn that she would not allow vaccine doses produced in the continent to leave for the UK. This is as Europe continues to struggle to get its mass vaccination programme off the ground.
Ms von der Leyen said she was prepared to trigger emergency powers contained in the EU treaty that would allow Brussels to restrict exports of vaccine doses, seize factories and even tear up intellectual property and patents on vaccine production to boost EU supplies.
She was also angered by the UK’s lack of deliveries of exporting vaccines at the same rate as the EU and the US.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused Ms von der Leyen and the EU of behaving like a ‘dictatorship’, urging the bloc to change course.
It is not the first time Ms von der Leyen has threatened the UK’s vaccine supplies, having done so earlier this year, by triggering Article 16 of the Brexit deal which erected a hard border and the island of Ireland.
Yanis Varoufakis: The former finance minister slammed the EU for trying to ‘depart with democracy’
Ursula von der Leyen: The Commission President again threatened the UK’s vaccine supplies
Many have in the past noted that the EU would be willing to toss aside democracy in order to achieve the goals in its best interests.
Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister and a staunch critic of the EU has spent years calling Brussels out.
In 2015, shortly after he served in the Greek government, Mr Varoufakis gave a Ted Talk where he tore apart what he described as the EU’s attempts to “depart with democracy”, drawing a parallel between the bloc and the Chinese Communist Party, among others.
Recalling an encounter with the Eurogroup – the eurozone’s decision-making body, comprising the common currency’s finance ministers, plus the representatives of the troika – Mr Varoufakis said: “I was told in no uncertain terms that our nation’s democratic process – our elections – could not be allowed to interfere with economic policies that were being implemented in Greece.
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“At that moment I felt that there could be no greater vindication of Lee Kuan Yew, or the Chinese Communist Party, indeed of some recalcitrant friends of mine who kept telling me that democracy would be banned if it ever threatened to change anything.”
“I want to ask you to join me in believing again that Lee Kuan Yew, the Chinese Communist Party and indeed the Eurogroup are wrong in believing that we can dispense with democracy – that we need an authentic, boisterous, democracy.
“Without democracy, our societies will be nastier, our future bleak, and our great new technologies wasted.”
His claims appear to resemble the bloc’s unwillingness to budge on the vaccine crisis.
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Even figures within Brussels have voiced concern over Ms von der Leyen’s direction.
Bernd Lange, who heads the European Parliament’s trade committee, wrote on social media: “[The] threat of export bans on COVID-19 vaccine by the European Commission is [a] sign of helplessness rather than strength.
“We have seen this coming for months.”
Many have also accused the EU of politicising the health crisis after member-state governments stopped using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine because of a small number of reported blood clots in people who had received it.
Coronavirus vaccine: The European countries that have suspended the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab
Today, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) found the vaccine was “not associated” with a higher risk of blood clots.
The decision of 13 EU states to suspend use of the vaccine sparked concerns over what should be the beginning of the end of the pandemic on the continent.
Europe is now facing a third wave.
Dr John McCauley, the director of the Worldwide Influenza Centre, told Express.co.uk that any further suspension of the vaccines will inevitably kill more people further down the line.
Oligarchies: Varoufakis has consistently described those who sit atop the EU as running ‘oligarchies
Writing in the New Statesman last month, Mr Varoufakis noted that the bloc’s vaccination crisis was another instance of its lack of democratic values.
He said: “The EU vaccines procurement fiasco is yet further proof that inefficient bureaucracy was never the EU’s true weakness.
“The roots of the union’s multiple failures can be traced to its origins in a glorified cartel.
“The rules that have caused so much avoidable pain across the continent, and have guaranteed the oligarchy immunity from anything resembling a democratic process, are embedded in the unwritten corporatist covenant at the centre of the EU – which, lest we forget, began life as a real cartel: the European Coal and Steel Community.”