After a bumpy begin within the coronavirus response, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Fee, secured a significant win in June, putting the forms she leads on the coronary heart of the European Union’s pandemic response. She was entrusted with slicing offers with pharmaceutical corporations to offer vaccines for the 450 million individuals within the bloc.
When the rollout lastly began simply after Christmas, a way of reduction took maintain in Brussels: The work of the fee, the European Union’s government department, was largely carried out; now particular person member states have been in control of placing vaccines within the arms of residents.
However barely a month into the rollout, which was shaping as much as be considerably behind Britain and the US, Pfizer after which AstraZeneca knowledgeable the fee that they’d not ship doses as promised, primarily due to manufacturing issues.
Whereas the difficulty with Pfizer appeared restricted and manageable, the state of affairs with AstraZeneca escalated into an all-out vaccine warfare between the European Union and Britain. The corporate had been easily delivering vaccines to Britain, simply because it knowledgeable the bloc that it might slash 75 % off its promised first-quarter supply volumes.
By the center of final week, Ms. von der Leyen, who had not made any public statements on the matter, had left her well being commissioner, Stella Kyriakides of Cyprus, to face the information media.
Later within the week, the fee rolled out a half-baked coverage requiring prior authorization for exports of vaccines made within the European Union, in order that it might examine that corporations like Pfizer and AstraZeneca weren’t sending abroad any vaccines that had been promised to the bloc.
Critics accused the European Union, which spent years criticizing the Trump administration for erecting commerce limitations, of doing the identical. And Brexit supporters accused the bloc of making an attempt to take vaccines away from Britons.
The concept got here from Ms. von der Leyen and her internal circle, a number of senior E.U. officers stated.
On Friday evening, because the authorized textual content of the coverage was printed, reporters observed it made provisions for the European Union to activate a nuclear clause within the divorce phrases with Britain, referred to as Article 16 of the Northern Eire Protocol, which virtually reinstitutes a tough border on the island of Eire.
The concept was that activating that clause would shut a loophole that would enable Britain to spirit vaccines away from the E.U. through the use of the dearth of border between the Republic of Eire, an E.U. nation, and Northern Eire, which is a part of the UK.
The fallout was quick and livid. By 1 a.m. Saturday, after a number of tense calls, together with with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, Ms. von der Leyen reversed the Article 16 invocation.