Not again! Macron sidekick Beaune attacks AstraZeneca: ‘They made fun of Europeans’

AstraZeneca gave EU ’25% of what it agreed’ says Thierry Breton

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The French European Affairs Minister accused the Anglo-Swedish vaccine producers of “making fun of Europeans”. He said: “AstraZeneca did not honour its commitments and in a way made fun of Europeans.”

Speaking in an interview on LCI television, Mr Beaune also took the opportunity to reiterate vaccines produced in the EU will not be shared with the UK before the majority of European citizens are inoculated.

He said: “The agreement with England is secondary. We need doses.

“Our priority is to vaccinate Europeans and the French.”

The EU and Britain have been engaged in a war of words over the delivery and rollout of COVID vaccines, with Brussels threatening to impose restrictions – or even an outright ban – on exports of AstraZeneca jabs.

In a public rebuke last month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the company: “You fulfil your contract with Europe first before you start delivering to other countries.”

The bloc has struggled with its vaccine rollout and continues to lag well behind the UK, where 55.08 doses per 100 people have been administered, almost three times higher than the bloc’s rate of 19.09.

The Oxford jab was snubbed by several EU countries in March, including France, and its use suspended after reports of cases of blood clots as one of the side effects of the jab.

Only a couple of weeks after its resumption, the jab was suspended in Germany for everyone under the age of 60.

In France, the vaccine is now only given to people aged 55 and over.

The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organisation have said the benefits outweigh the very rare risks.

AstraZeneca said in March its vaccine was 76 percent effective in preventing symptomatic infections in a US trial, and that studies did not indicate higher risks of clotting.

The EU has accused the drugmaker of over-selling its vaccine and unfairly favouring Britain – a charge denied by the company.

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Mr Beaune also said that the European Union must shoot for a more ambitious COVID-19 recovery plan than the landmark 750 billion euro stimulus agreed last summer after the epidemic’s first wave.

He claimed that Europe must not repeat errors made after the global financial crisis a decade ago and this time should underpin the recovery with investment, in fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks, green and digital technologies, among others.

Asked how much would be needed, Beaune said: “No doubt something like a doubling (of the existing fund).

“The economic response has to be more ambitious,” he said.

Beaune said he hoped the EU’s 27 member states would ratify the recovery fund by May and that the 750 billion euros would be available from the summer.

France is due to receive 40 billion euros under the scheme.

EU governments are still submitting detailed spending plans for their share of the pot, and frustration is growing in Paris and some other capitals at the slow speed of disbursing the money.

In an interview published on Saturday, European Council President Charles Michel said he did not share the view held by some that the EU’s recovery fund was insufficient when compared with the US spending plan.

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