Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters
Angela Merkel shows the way, the EU executes. This is not new. But it continues to happen also in terms of the vaccination campaign which, in theory, should be the result of coordination work between the States and the European institutions. It still is, let’s say, on paper, with vigorous swerves from the German side. Like the last one, towards the east, Russia specifically. A week after the phone call between the Chancellor and Vladimir Putin on the production of anti-Covid vaccines, it is learned that Ema, the European drug agency, has opened a dialogue with the Russian pharmaceutical company that produces Sputnik V.
There is still no “request for authorization for placing on the market” in Europe, specifies Stefan de Keersmaecker, spokesman for the European Commission. But there are contacts with the Russians. Sputnik V is currently only present in Hungary, the only member country that has imported it even without Ema’s authorization. The delays in the European authorization of the Astrazeneca vaccine (probably at the end of January) have pushed the continent, Merkel in the first place, to seek other ways, even Russian ones. Officially in the phone call with Putin, the chancellor only spoke of the possibility of producing the drug in Europe. But after all, already in early December, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov made it known that Sputnik V vaccines for export abroad should be produced in the territories for which they are intended.
We are not at the level of contacts between the European Commission and Sputnik for the signing of a dose purchase contract, not yet. But in the meantime Ema has opened a door to the Russians and this is a novelty, after the direct confrontation this summer between Merkel and Putin on the Navalny case. After all, Sputnik is already exported to Latin American countries, Argentina in the lead, but also Bolivia. Mexico should approve its use soon, government sources say. From the Kremlin they announce that they are also going to supply 25 million doses to Nepal. In the Arab world, the Russian vaccine has been approved by Palestine. Kazakhstan, Serbia, Belarus also ordered it.
The move on the Russian vaccine follows another unilateral initiative by Germany on vaccines, an initiative that is still being discussed in Europe. That is to say the choice to sign a bilateral agreement with the German company Biontech, partner of the American Pfizer, for the supply of 30 million doses, in addition to the 55.8 million vials destined for Germany under the agreement signed from the EU with the same pharmaceutical company. So far they have not flinched from Brussels, even if the German move violates EU agreements. Yesterday, the president of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen asked the Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides to send a letter to all EU health ministers inviting them to have greater transparency regarding bilateral contacts between Member States and the pharmaceutical companies with which the Commission has made agreements or is negotiating them. In short, a warm panel that does not solve the problem and does not shake Berlin.
Meanwhile, the unilateral move by Germany is proselytizing to the detriment of the EU: Cyprus has also paraded and is negotiating with Israel.
European leaders will update on the vaccination campaign on Thursday 21 January, via videoconference. But in the meantime, Europe is lagging behind on the measures announced before Christmas, such as the passenger card for travel safety in the covid era. And if Europe delays, the states act alone: the Greek government has sent a letter to the Commission asking for the establishment of a passport or travel certificate for citizens vaccinated against Covid-19. “We are examining it,” they say from the Berlaymont building.
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