‘We’re not naive!’ Macron ally Beaune launches bitter attack on AstraZeneca

Vaccine row: EU solidarity 'benefits everyone' says Beaune

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Speaking to French radio France Inter, Mr Macron’s European Affairs Minister said the EU was only willing to export Pfizer vaccines as the jabs producer is the only one respecting its contracts with Brussels.

In a bid to discredit AstraZeneca, he said the bloc still had doubts about the vaccine deliveries the pharmaceutical producer will make in the coming months.

The bloc has therefore decided to extend its vaccine export mechanism until the end of June, he said.

He said: “We produce in Europe. We will export when the contract with the Europeans is respected. We have put in place an export control mechanism. We are not naive.”

He added: “We produce a lot in Europe.

“To be clear and precise, we are exporting Pfizer vaccines, but Pfizer laboratory respects its contract with the EU.

“The problem comes when you export and you don’t respect the contract.

“That’s the doubt we have with AstraZeneca. That’s why we have put in place an export control mechanism because now we are verifying exports. Remember the case of Italy last week.”

The French politician, however, seemed to backtrack on his own statement a few minutes later, when he admitted the biggest problem for the EU is the slow and low production of vaccines in the bloc.

He said: “There is a delay, but we can make up for it.

“The battle is not over. You have named countries with better vaccination rates.

“The US, the UK and Israel are going faster than Europe right now. The idea for us is to accelerate.

“The problem of Europe is production, so we need to produce more and do it faster.”

The European Commission has decided to extend its export authorisation scheme for COVID-19 vaccines to the end of June, one EU official said on Thursday, in a move that could cause unease in countries who rely on shots made in the EU.

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The move, which could be announced today, comes after the EU blocked a shipment of vaccines to Australia last week, in its first formal use of the mechanism, which was set up at the end of January as a reaction to vaccine makers’ announcements of delays in the deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to the EU.

It is due to expire at the end of March, but the European Commission has obtained the green light from EU governments to extend it through June, the EU official directly involved in the process said, confirming a Reuters report from last week.

The move comes after the bloc engaged in a bitter row with the UK over its alleged vaccine exports ban.

Britain denied an accusation on Wednesday by the European Union that it had banned exports of COVID-19 vaccines, and summoned an EU diplomat to complain.

The EU says it has allowed millions of doses of Pfizer vaccines, which Britain does not make, to be exported there. On Tuesday, European Council President Charles Michel said Britain, like the United States, had “outright” banned exports of vaccines produced on its territory.

London says it has no such ban, and credits the success of its vaccine programme to strong negotiations with drug companies last year and early investment in supply chains. EU officials say London has effectively prevented exports of AstraZeneca vaccines by invoking a clause in its contract that requires the company to fulfil Britain’s order first.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament he had to “correct” Mr Michel’s suggestion.

His Government had “not blocked the export of any single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components”, he said.

The foreign office said it had summoned EU charge d’affaires Nicole Mannion “to discuss the issue of incorrect assertions in recent EU communications”.

Mr Michel eventually conceived the UK has no ban on vaccine exports, but added there were “different ways of imposing bans or restrictions on vaccines”.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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