‘Very kind of you!’ EU Commission ridiculed as it gloats over pandemic support across bloc

Vaccine row: Marr grills EU commissioner on 'unused' doses

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The Generation Frexit leader shared a tweet posted by the European Commission account which gloated about the financial support the EU has provided to European citizens across the bloc during the pandemic. The tweet by the EU executive read: “Faced with the pandemic, the EU supports up to €100 billion partial unemployment measures in the Member States.

“A report published this week shows that this device has benefited more than 25 million Europeans in 2020.”

But Mr Gallois was prompt to point out all EU contributions to member states are funded by payments made by the member states themselves to the bloc’s budget.

He joked: “It is very kind of you to support us with our money!”

The Commission has come under repeated fire over its handling of the crisis and in particular of the procurement of vaccines for the bloc.

Tensions with the UK over vaccine exports also exacerbated the debate around jabs across the bloc after Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threaten Britain with an export ban.

On Saturday, The Times reported that the UK is now close to striking a vaccine deal with the EU as soon as this weekend which aims at removing the threat of the bloc cutting off supplies.

Under the agreement the EU will remove its threat to ban the export of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to Britain, it added.

In return, the British government will agree to forgo some long-term supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that had been due to be exported from a factory in Holland run by AstraZeneca’s subcontractor Halix, the newspaper reported.

However, the EU has never threatened a ban on the export of vaccines, but has only said it could block on a case-by-case basis specific vaccine shipments to countries with higher vaccination rates or that do not export vaccines to the EU.

An EU Commission source said on Saturday: “We are only at the start of discussions with the UK. There are no talks over the weekend.”

They added that sending vaccines produced at Halix was not part of the talks.

A second EU source had previously said that the EU has no intention of sharing with Britain the vaccine substance from Halix, which is estimated to have already produced enough for about 15-20 million doses, and can produce the equivalent of 5 million shots per month.

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The British government, Pfizer-BioNTech, and AstraZeneca were not immediately available for comment.

The EU’s rebuff follows Britain’s repeated refusal to share with Brussels AstraZeneca doses produced at two factories in the UK.

On Friday, the European Medicines Agency approved the Halix production site in the Netherlands that makes the AstraZeneca vaccine and a facility in Marburg in Germany producing BioNTech/Pfizer shots.

The EU’s clearing of the vaccine site comes as the union is banking on it boosting deliveries in the second quarter and accelerate the slow pace of inoculations in the bloc.

Europe’s troubled vaccine rollout has led to a quarrel with Britain, which has imported 21 million doses made in the EU, according to an EU official. Britain says it did a better job negotiating with manufacturers and arranging supply chains.

The EU says that Britain should share more, notably to help make up the shortfall in contracted deliveries of AstraZeneca shots.

Brussels and London sought to cool tensions on Wednesday, declaring they were working “to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens”.

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