Brussels bosses tear into Germany over vaccines as Covid rifts re-appear across EU

EU 'don't have a plan' for vaccine rollout says expert

The European Commission, headed by former German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been under massive pressure from Germany which accused Brussels of failing to order enough of the vaccine to go around. Officials in Berlin said it was unacceptable that Germany, where the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was developed, found itself with insufficient doses to carry out an effective roll-out.  And they sparked outrage in Brussels when they said Germany should have taken care of it itself before helping other member states.

National egoism has so far not helped anywhere in the world

Ursula von der Leyen

A furious Ms von der Leyen has written a strongly-worded letter to Angela Merkel’s government making clear the EU’s views on the row and blaming individual member states rather than Brussels for the supply issues.

The letter said: “Germany’s strength is Europe’s single market.

“If only Germans had vaccination protection, it would not help the German economy recover from the slump.

“Travel remains difficult and we are de facto building new borders and fronts in Europe.

“National egoism has so far not helped anywhere in the world.”

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Jörg Wojahn, Ms von der Leyen’s representative in Germany, praised the EU’s vaccine management programme and rejected responsibility for the any problems associated with the roll-out.

He said: “The EU has pre-financed production capacities and thus made the production of larger volumes of the vaccines possible at a point in time in autumn 2020 when it was not possible to foresee objectively which vaccine project would lead to success and which would come first.”

But Britain, the USA and Japan had already ordered several million vaccine doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by then and all approved it ahead of the EU, leading to accusations that Brussels was struggling to keep up.

Mr Wojahn said: “The member states decide on the purchase themselves; they are also the ones who pay for the vaccines.

“That is why the argument that the EU Commission was too thrifty or stingy does not work.

“The EU does not pay for the vaccines – it is the member states that purchase and pay for the agreed quantities.

“The issue is the global bottleneck in production capacities. This also applies to BioNTech”.

The EU official said negotiations were now underway with the Mainz-based company about additional vaccines and an expansion of production capacities.

He said: “If all preparations are approved, Europe will have more than two billion vaccine doses available for all 450 million Europeans and its neighbourhood.”

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Germany has received 1.3 million vaccine doses but only around a quarter of that amount has been used.

Officials said the federal government was responsible for purchasing the vaccines while each federal state was responsible for its own roll-out programme.

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)

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