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Von der Leyen defends EU vaccine strategy: ‘It was the right thing to do’

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Today (10 February) European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addressed  MEPs in a debate in the European Parliament on the EU’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy. Von der Leyen admitted to the European Parliament that the EU was late to authorize, too optimistic when it came to upscaling production and “perhaps” too confident that what was ordered would be delivered on time. 

Von der Leyen said that by the end of the summer, at least 70% of the EU’s population will have been vaccinated, but at acknowledged that the EU was still not where it should be.

It was the right thing to do

Von der Leyen said: “I am deeply convinced of it was the right thing to do, it is the right thing to do that we as Europeans, to collectively have ordered in solidarity, the vaccine.

"I cannot even imagine what would have happened if just a handful of big players, big member states had rushed to it, and everybody else would have been left empty-handed, what would that have meant for our internal market and for the unity of Europe, but in economic terms, it would have been nonsense.”

International solidarity

Von der Leyen underlined that it was the EU that was key in establishing COVAX, the facility that improves  access to vaccines by low and middle income countries around the world: “As team Europe, that is the member states and the European institutions, we have provided €850 million, making us one of the biggest contributors.” 

Safety

Von der Leyen also “fully defended” the choice the EU made to prefer ‘market authorization’ approval over the more risky ‘emergency use’ approach followed by the UK and by some EU countries using the Chinese or Russian SputnikV vaccinations. She said: “There is no compromise possible when it's a matter of injecting a biologically active substance into an individual who is in good health.”

Brexit

Ex-EU Brexit negotiator Barnier: UK reputation at stake in Brexit row

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Head of the Task Force for Relations with the UK, Michel Barnier attendsthe debate on EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement during the second day of a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium April 27, 2021. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

Michel Barnier, the European Union's former Brexit negotiator, said on Monday (14 June) that the reputation of the United Kingdom was at stake regarding tensions over Brexit.

EU politicians have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of not respecting engagements made regarding Brexit. Growing tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK. Read more

"The United Kingdom needs to pay attention to its reputation," Barnier told France Info radio. "I want Mr Johnson to respect his signature," he added.

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coronavirus

Parliament president calls for a European Search and Rescue Mission

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European Parliament President David Sassoli (pictured) has opened a high-level interparliamentary conference on managing migration and asylum in Europe. The conference focused particularly on the external aspects of migration. The president said: “We have chosen to discuss today the external dimension of migration and asylum policies because we know that only by tackling the instability, crises, poverty, human rights violations that occur beyond our borders, will we be able to address the root causes that push millions of people to leave. We need to manage this global phenomenon in a human way, to welcome the people that knock on our doors every day with dignity and respect.
 
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on migration patterns locally and worldwide and has had a multiplier effect on the forced movement of people around the world, especially where access to treatment and healthcare is not guaranteed. The pandemic has disrupted migration pathways, blocked immigration, destroyed jobs and income, reduced remittances, and pushed millions of migrants and vulnerable populations into poverty.
 
“Migration and asylum are already an integral part of the external action of the European Union. But they must become part of a stronger and more cohesive foreign policy  in the future.
 
“I believe it is our duty first of all to save lives. It is no longer acceptable to leave this responsibility only to NGOs, which perform a substitute function in the Mediterranean. We must go back to thinking about joint action by the European Union in the Mediterranean that saves lives and tackles traffickers. We need a European search and rescue mechanism at sea, which uses the expertise of all actors involved, from Member States to civil society to European agencies.
 
“Second, we must ensure that people in need of protection can arrive in the European Union safely and without risking their lives. We need humanitarian channels to be defined together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We must work together on a European resettlement system based on common responsibility. We are talking about people who can also make an important contribution to the recovery of our societies affected by the pandemic and demographic decline, thanks to their work and their skills.
 
“We also need to put in place a European migration reception policy. Together we shoulddefine the criteria for a single entry and residence permit, assessing the needs of our labor markets at a national level. During the pandemic, entire economic sectors came to a halt due to the absence of immigrant workers. We need regulated immigration for the recovery of our societies and for the maintenance of our social protection systems.”

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EU

Commissioners Schmit and Dalli to participate in meeting of employment and social affairs ministers

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Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit and Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli (pictured) will participate in the meeting of employment and social policy ministers today (14 June) in Luxembourg. The ministers will discuss a broad range of issues, including the follow up to the Social Summit in Porto and next steps to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. In particular, ministers are expected to exchange views on setting national employment and social targets and monitoring progress within the European Semester process. The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030. The Strategy is a joint tool to improve the lives of persons with disabilities, covering all aspect of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. The Council is also expected to adopt a Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee, which aims to tackle child poverty and social exclusion. It recommends concrete actions to Member States to guarantee access to a set of key services for children in need and to promote equal opportunities. Ministers will also discuss the progress of the Commission proposal for adequate minimum wages in the EU.

Further items on the agenda include economic and social policy coordination, long-term care, pension adequacy, teleworking, social dialogue, health and safety at work, and social security coordination. The Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU will also highlight the upcoming High-Level Conference on 21 June in Lisbon to launch the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness. Commissioner Dalli will join the meeting to report to Ministers about the celebrations of the European Diversity Month in May and the way forward regarding the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy. Other points of discussion will be the Directive on binding pay transparency measures and the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on gender equality. Both the morning and the afternoon sessions will be livestreamed on the Council website. The meeting will be followed by a press conference with Commissioners Schmit and Dalli, which will be broadcast on EbS.

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