EU: Ursula von der Leyen is ‘under pressure’ says Adler
The EU has descended into bitter rows over its sluggish vaccine rollout, with Angela Merkel holding crisis talks with Commission officials later on Monday. The BBC’s Katya Adler exposed the growing split within Brussels, claiming that Ursula von der Leyen was “under mounting pressure”. On Sunday, Ms von der Leyen hailed a new deal to deliver nine million extra vaccine doses from AstraZeneca.
However, the doses would still only be about half of what the EU had originally expected.
The BBC’s Europe editor told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The Commission has said it has bought sufficient jabs to do the job – more than two billion – but that’s on paper.
“In practice vaccines have been slow to arrive, leading to a public row with AstraZeneca and EU resentment that the drug company appeared to be honouring a UK contract while leaving the EU short.
“Ursula von der Leyen is under pressure, and has been accused of mismanagement.
“EU voters are looking enviously at the vaccine rollout in the UK. They are demanding effective action.”
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One EU official told Ms Adler: “It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. President von der Leyen is a medical doctor.
“She wanted to take over the mass purchase of vaccines for all the EU – as a high-profile exercise.
“Normally health issues are dealt with nationally. This hasn’t been a great advertisement for handing over powers to Brussels.
“I think that’s the lesson member states will take away from this.”
This comes amid news that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold crisis talks with pharmaceutical executives, regional German leaders and European Commission officials later today.
Mrs Merkel decision to step in is a sign of Brussels failures, according to a source, as the German leader tries to speed up the EU’s struggling vaccination push.
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The European Commission has been widely criticised for its slow rollout of vaccination programmes.
Vaccine appointments have been cancelled in France, Portugal, Spain and other member states because of dwindling supplies.
Last week, Brussels was locked in a bitter dispute with AstraZeneca after the British-Swedish drug company said it was reducing the number of jabs delivered to the bloc due to production issues.
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Speaking to German TV on Sunday, Ms von der Leyen said: “We want 70 percent of the grownup population to be vaccinated by the end of the summer.”
She also confirmed that she had spoken to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said that AstraZeneca production plants in the UK would deliver to Europe.
The European Commission president added: “Our enemy is the virus and the pharmaceutical industry is part of the solution.”
However, one diplomat warned Brussels risked “ruining” its credibility over the export controls.
Officials pointed blame at Ms von der Leyen’s “silo” management, which saw decision-making confined to a small inner-circle.
Several Brussels diplomats have even called for her resignation over the vaccine debacle, with one official telling the Sunday Telegraph: “She needs to go. Now.”
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