EU crisis: Unity in shreds as vaccine revolt fuels bitter row – nations turn on each other

EU vaccine rollout shortcomings addressed by von der Leyen

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Austria and Denmark announced on Monday they would make a deal with Israel for the procurement of vaccine doses after lamenting the EU Commission’s programme proved “too slow”. But the move has sparked the furious reaction of pro-EU Italian coalition party PD (Democratic Party).

The party’s spokesman, Leonardo Cecchi, raged at the news claiming member states closer to Angela Merkel’s Germany are never judged as harshly as southern countries when they break from the bloc’s rules.

He blasted on Facebook: “Austria announces the break with the EU and the EMA and says it intends to start producing vaccines with Israel. Denmark follows.

“Obviously this weakens the Union as a whole, and therefore us too.

“Moreover, on a very delicate issue: the health of EU citizens.

“But I want to understand one thing. How does it work that the beggars, the hustlers, the crafty ones to be reproached and always look down upon are always the Italians or in any case Mediterraneans, whilst the Germanic countries do the greatest damage?

“Why is there no harshness towards them, often even paternalistic, which is held instead towards us?

“Had we done such a thing today we would be in all the German, Austrian, Danish and Dutch newspapers with photos of caricatured moustached individuals with guns in hand shooting vaccines, while eating spaghetti and playing the mandolin, with anthropological opinions on us being irresponsible and messy people.

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“They do it and it’s okay.”

But the PD’s reaction to Austria and Denmark’s announcement was not shared by their Italian rivals and coalition partners League.

Instead, Matteo Salvini’s party congratulated the two member states for their decision to take vaccine orders into their own hands and argued Italy should soon follow suit.

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League MEPs signed a parliamentary note on Tuesday denouncing the EU’s chaotic handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its vaccine procurement strategy.

The note read: “The announcement by Austria and Denmark that they will no longer rely on the EU and want to proceed independently to procure vaccines, followed by the statements of the European Commission on the legitimacy of this decision, represents yet another and sensational confirmation of the failure of the strategy carried out so far from Brussels.

“To the detriment of the few vaccines distributed so far, this adds the mockery of a U-turn compared to what was claimed until yesterday.

“Vienna did well, as well as other EU countries, to seek vaccines independently, without waiting for delays and European bureaucracies.

“Italy should follow suit, carrying out the vaccine production plans proposed by Matteo Salvini and the League and intensifying every effort to obtain as many vaccines as possible, to protect the health of citizens.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he discussed the new vaccine venture with the two European leaders who will meet him in person this week.

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen are expected in Israel this week to see Israel’s rapid vaccine rollout up close.

Mr Netanyahu said the leaders will also talk about the idea of “an international corporation for manufacturing vaccines”.

Mr Kurz told German newspaper Bild the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is “too slow” to approve vaccines.

He said: “We should no longer be dependent only on the EU for the production of second-generation vaccines.”

Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, also sought deals with China and Russia for the procurement of more vaccines.

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