The EU trade chief has defended his role in crafting vaccine export restrictions that have forced Brussels into an embarrassing reversal of measures applicable to Northern Ireland.
Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice-president of the European Commission, said draft EU text included measures to impose controls on vaccines enter Northern Ireland of the EU – the creation of a de facto hard border on the island of Ireland – has been drafted with all relevant input from the Commission.
Brussels has been under pressure after the commission was forced to drop the “safeguard” for Northern Ireland on Friday night after outcry in Dublin, Belfast and London, who were not consulted on the measure.
This would have triggered an emergency clause in the Brexit Withdrawal Treaty and was part of a larger regulation allowing EU member states to restrict the ability of drugmakers to export vaccines out of the bloc. Officials told the Financial Times that the draft was distributed to the committee’s college 30 minutes before it is scheduled for adoption on Friday.
While questions were asked about who was responsible for the error, Eric Mamer, spokesperson for the committee, said on Monday that the ultimate responsibility for the settlement lay with Mr Dombrovskis because he was in charge of trade.
“This regulation is the responsibility of Mr Dombrovskis and his cabinet and of course of the commission services which respond to him,” said Mr Mamer.
In response, Mr Dombrovskis said EU trade officials had acted “at the request – and with input – of the relevant cabinets and departments of the committee to address these public health considerations”.
“From a business perspective, there were concerns about the unintended consequences of using such a mechanism, but there were overriding public health considerations. We have done our best to make this system as temporary and targeted as possible, and we would like to reassure our trading partners that we will do everything possible to ensure that supplies are not interrupted ”, said the Latvian Commissioner.
The botched introduction of vaccine controls has sparked a private blame game at the highest echelons of the committee over how Northern Ireland’s save was approved without senior officials such as Brexit chief Michel Barnier, be informed.
Ursula von der Leyen, chairman of the committee, was also under pressure to explain the U-turn. But the chairman of the German commission avoided requests to hold a public debate with MEPs about what happened. Instead, she will hold a series of closed-door meetings on Tuesday with the center-right, center-left, liberal and green groups in the European Parliament.
Europe’s top health official also weighed in to defend the bloc’s broader vaccine strategy, which has are criticized for shortages and delays.
Sandra Gallina, EU director general for health policy, told MEPs on Monday that Europe was in the ‘first league’ of COVID-19 vaccination globally and denied its deployment was hampered by delays in signing contracts with companies and a lack of investment in the manufacturing sector. capacity.
Ms Gallina said the EU had vaccinated more than 12 million people and that unfavorable comparisons with countries such as Israel, the world leader in Covid inoculation, were not helpful. “We have already joined the biggest league of the countries. When you look at the most vaccinated countries, all EU member states are in the top league, ”she said.
The vaccine chief also dismissed suggestions that the EU was suffering the consequences of ordering some major vaccines months later than the UK, where the rollout has far exceeded member states in Europe.
Ms Gallina said the time taken to negotiate the portfolio of nearly 2.3 billion doses of six vaccines was mainly due to haggling with companies to determine who would be responsible for the problems with the vaccines. “Making a contract with this speed is not necessarily that easy. Liability and compensation – that was really very important to us. “