Opacity, improvisation, draft errors and one misstep after another in the information policy. Ursula von der Leyen’s ‘horribilis’ week has given its detractors the best example of the German continues without feeling the pulse of the great institution of the EU. The credibility of the European Commission has suffered one of the most serious blows from this pandemic crisis as a result of the open war it has waged with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The contest has revealed the weakness of the Executive with the pharmaceutical multinationals; it has triggered the malaise of governments such as Ireland; also that ‘marketing’ overload that his cabinet has been reproached with from day one; and even the ‘blush’ with glaring miscommunication. Like boasting about “transparency” by publishing the contract with the aforementioned firm, mutilated with a myriad of studs that were later ‘erased’ with a home computer program.
Part by part. The pulse with the pharmacists. The dose cuts announced first by Pfizer-BioNTec and then by AstraZeneca have been resolved with Ads sold as “steps forward” by Von der Leyen, even when they are reiterations or hide certain concessions. The first, the North American confirmed on Monday the delivery to the EU of 75 million doses “ahead of schedule” in the second quarter of the year. The president of the Commission highlighted it as a result of the negotiating effort. “We continue working,” it said. The funny thing is that that same figure, that same announcement, was made by herself on January 8. And that without losing reference that the contract is 600 million doses for this 2021.
With_AstraZeneca, the matter is even more revealing. Brussels last week had an ‘open war’ with this company. With sour accusations like having resold the ‘European’ doses to markets such as the United Kingdom or Israel. Requirement for written explanations, several meetings with its CEO, Pascal Soriot. And a controversial tool to block exports that we will refer to later.
Not half of the expected
The point is that after so much tension, on Sunday, via Twitter, Von der Leyen launched that AstraZeneca had promised to deliver 9 million of additional doses in the first quarter – up to a total of 40 million – «compared to the supply of the last weeks. Deliveries will begin one week ahead of schedule. The company will also expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe. ‘ Those 40 million doses are just 50% of those expected until a couple of weeks ago. In other words, the provision supposedly agreed upon at the time the contract was signed amounted to between 80 and 100 million doses.
So such a relative success that on Monday the German spokesman, Eric Mamer, was forced to recognize the arrangement as insufficient. “It’s definitely not the number we expected to receive in the first quarter, so discussions will continue». We leave it, therefore, in “an improvement”. According to the data offered at the same press conference, the EU would have received to date 18.5 million doses (17.6 from Pfizer-BioNTec and 854,000 from Moderna; AstraZeneca has been authorized since Friday).
And we come to the most glaring recent political stumbling block. The mechanism that already allows the EU control and block exports coronavirus vaccines to third countries. This tool was developed and activated against the clock. When it was presented it excluded 92 territories from customs ‘control’, including the Western Balkans or Switzerland, several low-income states and, of course, recipients of humanitarian aid). But it did force down the barrier between Ireland and the British region of Northern Ireland. Come on, it directly dynamited the efforts of four years of ‘Brexit’ negotiations on Ulster. So the European Commission had to back down.
It was transcendent and in a handful of hours the protests of the British and Irish governments, the DUP, Sinn Féin, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury raged over Brussels. Both Boris Johnson and the Prime Minister of Ireland, Micheál Martin, they expressed their discomfort directly to Von der Leyen by phone. None, but especially Martin, the leader of an EU country, had previously been consulted. So an official correction had to be made: “It will ensure that the protocol between Ireland and Northern Ireland is not affected.”
30 minutes before
Brussels had made “a mistake with very serious consequences”, the Irish Commissioner Mairead McGuinness, responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Union of the Capital Markets of the Commission, denounced at shot past. McGuinness, a member of the Von der Leyen Executive, hinted that this ‘detail’ about his country was passed to him. But it was not a mistake. He lacked information. According to the Financial Times, the commissioners were handed the final draft on the export regulations just half an hour before approval.
Which leads to those criticisms about the figure of Von der Leyen that have become recurrent since he settled in Brussels. The first, which relies too much on a small group of collaborators – many who came with her after leaving the German Ministry of Defense – without paying attention to the “orientation” of officials who know the institution’s gears much better. The second. His sensitivity (excessive for other countries) towards the messages that come from the Franco-German axis. She is accused of being very vulnerable to his pressure.
His predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker was also criticized for lean too much on one of your collaborators. The German Martin Selmayr, made and undone in the shadows during the Luxembourgish mandate, according to those who have been following community policy for years. A “controversial” figure that no one can blame who did not know the fit of each piece in the institution.