Many EU countries may have more than enough to deal with domestically, from the Covid cases in Portugal to the upcoming regional elections in Spain and the political turmoil in Italy, but the events of Friday night and the days before they have not gone unnoticed in the European press.
Fears over vaccine receipt delays and questions about procurement and investment were uncomfortably and acutely focused over the weekend after the EU’s messy announcement of possible export controls on vaccines produced within the bloc.
Die Zeit from Germany said the European Commission had unknowingly provided “the best Brexit announcement: It is acting slow, bureaucratic and protectionist. And if something goes wrong, it’s everyone else’s fault. “
Die Welt was equally unwavering in its assessment of the situation, accusing the President of the European Commission, Urusla von der Leyen, of an enormously counterproductive strategy.
“Hardliners in the UK will not forget Von der Leyen’s own Brexit goal, and will use it as a welcome template if torpedoing the Brexit deal pays off domestically.” He said.
“Meanwhile, pro-Europeans on the island will increasingly wonder if leaving Brussels was such a bad thing after all.”
Andrés Gil, Brussels correspondent for the online Spanish daily elDiario, also noted an increase in hostilities.
“There is not only a vaccine war between the EU and the AstraZeneca laboratory because of the announced delay in deliveries”, he wrote. “That war is now causing collateral damage with the UK, the country that has just left the EU after four years of tough negotiations.”
A editorial in El País – released the day before Friday’s U-turn – noted that while the EU’s centralized purchasing scheme had avoided inefficient and unfair “healthcare nationalism”, mistakes had been made.
“If its performance is compared with that of other administrations, the EU has acted somewhat slowly which has led to the late signing of contracts, which is now becoming a problem.”
A leader in The WorldMeanwhile, he concluded: “These days, the EU is emitting the same feeling of vulnerability and confusion that we saw during the first weeks of the coronavirus outbreak.”
There was a similar feeling of exasperation over The world of France. The newspaper acknowledged that the pandemic had placed political and business leaders in a situation “as exceptional as it is unpredictable”, and said the EU was “ill equipped for health emergencies of this magnitude”. But that, he added, is no excuse for the bloc not adhering to its founding philosophy.
“It is regrettable that political interests and geopolitical rivalries take precedence over an issue that no one should lose sight of: vaccinating as many people as possible, in Europe and in the rest of the world. This was the initial goal of the EU, which saw the vaccine as a “global common good”. It’s time to get back to that, with unreserved cooperation between governments and the pharmaceutical industry. “
In Portugal, where the healthcare system is being stretched to a breaking point, Público stepped back to offer some perspective.
“Even if there is some distress in the mix, it is good to see that the European Commission is fighting for what will make a difference: the speed of vaccine supply from pharmaceutical companies.” said the newspaper.
“How different would our negotiating skills be if we were not members of the EU. Vaccination is the brightest light at the end of this tunnel that we find ourselves in. Even if some specters cast shadows, we have to focus on vaccination and demanding speed and transparency. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism