Austria and Denmark will be cooperating with Israel when it comes to vaccines. Italy will produce the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and Hungary is taking its own path and is vaccinating its citizens with Chinese and Russian doses.
The OSW Center for Eastern Studies expert Konrad Popławski explained that Austria and Hungary’s actions are a serious argument in favor of a Europe of Fatherlands, as the EU has started to take responsibility for matters in which it has no competencies. The vaccine fiasco shows that people without expert knowledge dealt with the matter while on the other side there were the experienced negotiators of pharmaceutical companies.
The slow speed of the EU vaccination program was criticized by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz who alongside Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredriksen signed an agreement concerning developing and producing a new generation of vaccines with Israel. French diplomacy criticized this move, claiming that EU states should base its vaccine policy on cooperation within the EU.
Popławski pointed to a crucial element which is lacking in EU cooperation.
“If the EU took responsibility for the vaccine purchase program, then it should also bear political responsibility. In every normal company or state, following such mistakes which have cost lives, someone would be held responsible. Meanwhile, nothing seems of the sort in the EU. If Ursula von der Leyen wasn’t German, she would’ve lost her position,” says Popławski.
He emphasized that it is embarrassing for the EU that countries such as Serbia are more advanced when it comes to vaccinations. He believes that this is proof that EU competencies should not expand and that integration should only take place where it brings additional benefits.
Despite the systemic failure of the EU in relation to the vaccine, on Feb. 25, David Sassoli, the European Parliament president and a left-wing politician from Italy, called for member states to delegate more of their competencies to the EU level to prevent further crises caused by the pandemic. In his opinion, the European Commission had passed its test during the coronavirus.
Popławski warns that this line of thought is unrealistic and if politicians are unable to reflect on their failures then this line of thinking may cause even larger mistakes in the future.
“It is interesting that politicians whom Brussels tried to blame for all the evils of the world, like Boris Johnson or Donald Trump, were able to achieve results for their countries. EU politicians are unable to do so and this takes us back to the question concerning political responsibility,” he said.