Vaccine row: European Union warned about contracts by Wallace
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The coronavirus pandemic has placed the future of the bloc in doubt, particularly as its botched handling of its vaccine rollout continues to infuriate some member states. Among them are the likes of the Czech Republic and Hungary, who have been forced to purchase vaccines from outside the bloc, and beg other nations to share their supplies. Parts of the EU are still under strict coronavirus restrictions, including travel bans and lockdowns, leading to anger over how it decided to go about its vaccine project.
Critics argue it spent too long signing off on various vaccines to use, and this – along with pharmaceutical production issues – has seen the EU fall behind the likes of the UK in getting jabs to citizens.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also waded into the row, claiming the rollout of vaccines in Europe was “unacceptably slow”.
Hans Kluge, WHO director for Europe, claimed that “vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic”, adding: “We must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now.”
This has led to a rise in euroscepticism in the bloc, with some countries arguing member states should have rolled out their own vaccine pathways, as opposed to relying on rule-makers inside the European Commission.
And in the aftermath of Brexit, five influential politicians and commentators argued nations such as Denmark and Sweden should have lessened their ties with the EU – and European Parliament – in order to prosper.
Mark Brolin, Jan-Erik Gustafsson, Helle Hagenau, Ulla Klötzer and Erna Bjarnadóttir – from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland – co-authored an opinion piece that outlined how these Nordic nations could flourish.
They argued that the “accumulation” of power within the bloc had cast serious doubt over member states’ independence, sparking concern.
Denmark, Sweden and Finland are inside the bloc, while the other two Nordic nations retain links to the EU through the European Economic Area.
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But, the authors argued now was the time for this to be changed.
As a result of their close relationship to the bloc, Norway and Iceland have also seen their influence over their own laws diminish, while the other three countries abide by EU legislation.
They demanded the nations “curtailed their political and administrative links to a European construction that is already singing his swan song”.
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This would allow them to strike deals – both on security and trade – with other nations including the UK, which is seen as an ally to the likes of Denmark and Sweden.
Their statement, published in Aftonbladet a year after Brexit in 2017, said: “The Nordic countries would, of course, seek to maintain good relations with the countries of the European Union, without any pressing political superstructure.
“Doing nothing would, in our view, probably secure a long-standing (continuing) political stalemate.”
The experts also tore apart the EU’s claim of being “modern” – which they described as being “so far from the truth”.
The piece added: “Heavy and clustered superstructures that do not serve the people they are designed to serve are a thing of the past.
“What once made Europe unique, at least, was the fact that the northern part of the continent split from the heavy political and economic structure of society.
“That grip needs to be reviewed again now. Nothing could better promote prosperity and peace.”
Recent reports show that the EU is vaccinating around 16.4 citizens per 100 people, compared with the UK’s rate – which is at 45.
The bloc had previously vowed to spend huge amounts on helping fund a vaccine, yet once again it was left behind the UK and US.
According to a report by scientific data company Airfinity, the UK spent £25 per person on early COVID-19 research, committing around £1.67billion to vaccines before knowing their effectiveness.
The US offered £7.9billion, at a rate of £24.02 per person, while the EU lagged behind again, spending just £3.51 per citizen, with an investment of £1.57billion.
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