European Diary, 20.3.2021: The dispute over the distribution of vaccines in the EU is further fueled by the Austrian Chancellor. Last year, the EU Commission’s plan to distribute vaccines fairly among all EU countries was torpedoed, not least by countries like Austria, which wanted to choose their own vaccines – within the limits of the total quantities allocated according to population size. As a result, countries that relied on the cheap vaccine from Astra Zeneca, such as Bulgaria or Croatia, are currently losing out due to the production and delivery difficulties of the British supplier. And those that relied on the expensive Biontech vaccine, such as Malta or Denmark, are currently doing better.
Austria, however, has so far received neither too much nor too little vaccine, measured against the quantities available. But that did not stop the Austrian chancellor from proclaiming himself the spokesman for the “too short”. And to publicly attack his own Ministry of Health.
Apparently, the Austrian representative on the EU vaccine panel, Clemens Martin Auer, a veteran ÖVP man, missed an opportunity to do exactly what Chancellor Kurz is now accusing others of doing, namely placing another extra order at the “bazaar.” Whether this would have led to a faster delivery of vaccine doses may be doubted. Austria and the entire EU have already ordered far more vaccine doses than would be needed to vaccinate the population this year. The current delays are obviously not due to hesitant orders, but to slow deliveries.
A few days before the next EU summit, Kurz is calling for an EU summit. This demand sounds as if he were emphatically calling for sunrise after sunset, only to announce a success a few hours later.
EU Commission President von der Leyen announced a few days ago that the delivery of a further 10 million doses from Biontech-Pfizer could now be brought forward, after there were delivery problems from this manufacturer just a few weeks ago. With these doses now countries could be preferred, which bet with their orders in the last year on the wrong map. The fact that Austria, which has so far neither benefited nor been disadvantaged, is now making additional demands does not go down well with them, of course. After all, the attempt to compensate for the different delivery quantities with these additional Biontech vaccine doses depends on the willingness of some countries to voluntarily forego part of the deliveries to which they are entitled as agreed. The vaccination nationalism fomented by Austria is not really helpful in this regard.
Lithuania, meanwhile, is making a grand gesture of announcing that it will now allow its citizens to decide which vaccine they want to be vaccinated with. This, too, is obviously just a propaganda coup. Because the choice between Astra Zeneca and Biontech apparently consists primarily of getting vaccinated now or sometime later. Since there is too little of both, the Lithuanian government is at least gaining a little time – and its citizens: nothing.
Flashback 20.3.2020: Israeli historian Yuval Harari sees “the first coronavirus dictatorship” emerging in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu is apparently using the Corona crisis and the imposed lockdown to secure a fifth term and break opposition to his reappointment, while the trial for fraud, embezzlement and bribery waits and waits for him.
Boris Johnson, meanwhile, is announcing what appears to him to be the toughest anti-Corona measure yet on the British Isle: “We’re taking away the ancient, inalienable right of free-born people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub.”
In an interview with the German Bild-Zeitung, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz explains that it was a phone call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that woke him up. He probably means the telephone conference of numerous EU prime ministers on March 9, in which Netanyahu had also participated. Netanyahu would have meant, Kurz said, “you underestimate this in Europe.” The dramatic situation in neighboring Italy since early March apparently has not been enough to wake up the Austrian chancellor.
The EU Commission is reacting to the expected economic problems in the wake of the pandemic and its control. It is now allowing exceptions to the strict rules designed to limit distortions of competition caused by government subsidies. It has adopted a temporary framework that allows member states to grant economic aid within a short period of time.