WORLD / EUROPE
Merkel backs EU chief's AstraZeneca export ban threat
Published: Mar 23, 2021 08:18 PM
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday voiced support for EU chief Ursula von der Leyen's threat to block AstraZeneca vaccines produced in the bloc from being exported, ahead of a crunch EU summit on the escalating row.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, Berlin's Governing Mayor Michael Muller, left, and Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Soder, right, attend a press conference in the Chancellor's Office following consultations between the federal and state governments in Berlin Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Photo: VCG

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, Berlin's Governing Mayor Michael Muller, left, and Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Soder, right, attend a press conference in the Chancellor's Office following consultations between the federal and state governments in Berlin Tuesday. Photo: VCG

"I support Commission President Ursula von der Leyen," said Merkel.

"We have a problem with AstraZeneca," she added. 

European officials are furious that AstraZeneca has been able to deliver its UK contract in full while falling short on its supplies to the EU. In her tough warning to the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant on Saturday, Von der Leyen said: "That's the message to AstraZeneca: You fulfill your contract with Europe first before you start delivering to other countries."

The warning comes as the European Union struggles to speed up its COVID-19 inoculation campaign, just as many member states are facing a third coronavirus wave and renewed curbs on public life.

Von der Leyen said AstraZeneca had delivered only 30 percent of the 90 million vaccine doses it had promised for the first quarter of 2021.

Much of the frustration is over supplies to Britain, where the inoculation campaign has progressed at a much faster pace and where AstraZeneca also has production facilities.

Brussels has accused London of operating a de facto export ban to achieve its vaccine success, a claim furiously denied by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government.

Britain has in turn voiced alarm over the EU's threat to halt AstraZeneca supplies leaving the continent.
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