German MEP warns EU risks ‘shooting themselves in the foot’ by ‘bringing out the shotgun’

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And Bernd Lange fears the EU, already lagging well behind the UK in terms of the number of jabs administered, could actually end up making the situation worse. Mr Lange was speaking on a day when the EU tightened its oversight of coronavirus vaccine exports, giving it greater scope to block shipments to countries with higher inoculation rates such as Britain, or which are not sharing doses they produce.

The EU Commission brings out the shotgun

Bernd Lange

European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis subsequently insisted the move was not a precursor to an export ban – but SPD MEP Mr Lange was nevertheless concerned.

In a series of tweets, he warned: “Everyone should realise what kind of danger we are engaging in: we might end up with less vaccines for the EU.

“Because now all manufacturers are being held hostage for the problems with AstraZeneca. The EU Commission brings out the shotgun.

“But using the cluster munitions we may end up shooting ourselves in the foot because the supply chains for vaccine production might be affected and interrupted.”

He added: “Such an escalation is also fatal for global efforts.

“Because the poorer countries will suffer the most in this fight for vaccines.

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“In the end, we will mostly have losers and only one winner: the virus itself.”

Mr Lange yesterday clashed with fellow German MEP, the CDU’s Manfred Weber, during an appearance on television station ZDF.

Mr Weber suggested it was time to “bring out the thumbscrews” and get tough with drug company AstraZeneca and by extension the UK and the USA.

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However, Mr Lange said he was opposed to anything which penalised countries and their people.

He explained: “If you now impose an export stop, we will of course be confronted with counter-reactions. There’s no doubt about that.

“We are in a very complex delivery chain system for the production of the vaccine. This affects masks, filters, but also ingredients.

“And they’re not all coming from the EU. Pfizer/BioNtech, for example, have 280 additives in their product, which come from 83 countries.”

He warned: “If we now start to impose export bans, there will be counter-reactions and then there will also not be any deliveries of these ingredients anymore and for Pfizer/BioNtech, this can lead to production can no longer take place within days, and that would be a counter-reaction.

“No, I believe we have to put the screws on the companies, which do not fulfil their contractual obligations.”

Speaking today, Mr Dombrovskis denied the export authorisation mechanism was targeted at any one country.

However, he said 10 million jabs had moved from the EU to the UK since it introduced checks and that “zero doses” had returned from British plants.

He argued that the controls are necessary because while the EU is one of the “global hotspots of the pandemic” it is also the “largest exporter of vaccines”.

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