ÖVP calls for the suspension of top officials in the Ministry of Health

The general secretary of the Ministry of Health, Ines Stilling, stressed that the negotiations on the distribution of vaccination doses in the EU were “balanced and transparent”.

Of the Coalition dispute over the distribution of the corona vaccines within the EU is tightened: ÖVP health spokeswoman Gaby Schwarz called on Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) via broadcast on Saturday to immediately suspend the responsible officials in his ministry. Schwarz named the Secretary General of the Ministry, Ines Stilling, and the special representative Clemens Martin Auer.

“Health Minister Anschober has repeatedly affirmed in the past weeks and months that everything will be done to bring as much vaccine as possible to Austria,” explained Schwarz in the broadcast. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are countries that do The EU supplied significantly more vaccine per capita than Austria. The question arises as to why the agreement of the EU heads of state and government on distribution according to the population key has been broken. “It is hard to imagine that Anschober knew about this in detail. It is important to clarify whether he was deceived by the responsible officials of the Ministry of Health, ”said Schwarz. Anschober is currently ill and wants to start working again at the beginning of next week.

Stilling: Negotiations “balanced and transparent”

Stilling had previously contradicted the criticism of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) about the distribution of vaccines. The negotiations on the distribution were “balanced and transparent”, said the General Secretary of the Ministry of Health in the “Ö1” morning journal. All member states, including Austria, had the opportunity to buy free vaccine contingents. There are no bazaar methods.

The Federal Chancellor had sharply criticized the distribution of vaccines in the European Union on Friday and expressed suspicion of collateral agreements between individual member states and pharmaceutical companies. This would violate an EU summit resolution, according to which the vaccines should be distributed evenly to the states according to the number of people. Kurz pointed out that around Malta received three times as many vaccine doses per capita as Bulgaria. Austria itself is not disadvantaged. Malta but also Germany rejected the allegations.

During the negotiations in summer 2020, each member state was asked how much of each specific vaccine it wanted, Stilling told Ö1. The offer was at least a proportion of doses of a specific vaccine according to the proportion of the population of a member state in relation to the total EU population. Each member state has secured different amounts of each vaccine. It was not based on the principle of who calls first or loudest, emphasized Stilling. The vaccine distribution is also an ongoing topic in the Council of Ministers, so that the Federal Chancellery is also kept informed. Since January, Austria has even had its own steering committee for procurement and delivery schedules with the involvement of the Federal Chancellery, added Stilling.

After Stilling’s interview, the Ministry of Health had tried to smooth things over. It is “our common goal” to vaccinate as quickly as possible and in a European unison. The vaccination campaign was a joint project of the federal government from the start. “The aim in this crucial phase must be a fair and equal distribution of vaccines within the EU in order to ensure simultaneous vaccination activity”, was emphasized.

Kurz calls for a vaccination summit with four colleagues

Meanwhile, Chancellor Kurz has called for an EU summit on vaccine distribution in a joint letter with four colleagues. In order for all EU states to achieve their vaccination targets for the second quarter, EU Council President Charles Michel should hold a summit “as soon as possible”, according to the letter from the heads of government of Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Latvia published on Saturday the top of the EU.

The letter to Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen essentially repeats the statements made by Kurz in a press conference on Friday. Kurz and his counterparts Andrej Babis (Czech Republic), Janez Jansa (Slovenia), Bojko Borissow (Bulgaria) and Krisjanis Karins (Latvia) report that they have “discovered in the past few days” that the deliveries of vaccine doses by the pharmaceutical companies do not correspond to this Population key.

“If this system continues like this, it would create and deepen huge inequalities among the member states by the summer. Some would be able to achieve herd immunity in a few weeks while others would lag far behind,” complained the five heads of government. “From our point of view, this contradicts not only our agreement but also the spirit of European solidarity.”

Of the five signatories of the letter, three (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Latvia) have so far got out worse than with a consistent distribution of vaccination doses according to the population. Slovenia and Austria received as many doses as their population numbers. Croatia, which is third to last on the previous balance sheet with -27 percent, did not join the letter. During a visit to Brussels on Friday, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic even expressed a lack of understanding for the Chancellor’s move, according to an ORF report. It simply depends on which country has ordered from which manufacturer, Plenkovic calculated in front of journalists.

Malta rejected the Chancellor’s criticism on Friday, as did Germany. “It has been agreed that the vaccine quotas will be distributed between the member states according to the proportion of the population,” said a German government spokesman when asked by Reuters. “In the event that Member States do not purchase the full quantities to which they are entitled, a procedure has been put in place to allow other Member States to ‘buy up’ those doses that have not been taken,” he added. Here too, the orders would be distributed using the same procedure. “If a Member State doesn’t order cans, it won’t get anything.” The EU Commission had previously made a similar statement.

(Red./APA)

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