EU insider accuses von der Leyen of making ‘one gaffe after another’ amid vaccine row
Ursula von der Leyen called to ‘step down’ by MEP
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Tensions between the EU and AstraZeneca boiled over last month, when Brussels published a heavily redacted version of the company’s contract following criticism of its “best-effort” pledges. Brussels and the British-Swedish company had been in a row all week after the pharmaceutical giant announced it would supply at least 75 million fewer doses of the vaccine by the end of March. Despite the bloc welcoming the “transparency” of the document, many paragraphs of the contract were redacted with thick black lines blocking text underneath.
However, some blanked out sections could still be viewed in the bookmarks bar on the left of the pages.
Those disclosures revealed the contract was worth €870million (£760m) – which includes all direct and indirect costs.
It also gave a breakdown of what is covered under the “costs of goods”.
Other vital information, like the estimated delivery schedule, however, remained blacked out.
EU Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer admitted: “Well, clearly we published a version with sections that were redacted and through technical means that were not our means, certain parts that were redacted were visible.”
Italian MEP Antonio Maria Rinaldi told Express.co.uk this blunder was proof of the level of “ineptitude” of the European Union and accused President of the European Commission Ursula von Der Leyen of making “one gaffe after another”.
He said: “This is a paradox that will hopefully make people understand how European bureaucracy works.
“Von der Leyen could not help herself and published the contracts, with lots of omitted parts.
“But actually, large parts of the redacted content could be revealed simply by using the bookmark tool [in Adobe Acrobat’s Reader].
“They had forgotten to clear the margins. How stupid is that?
“They realised after twenty minutes but it was too late.”
Mr Rinaldi noted: “This should show the level of incompetence that lives within the EU.
“Ursula von Der Leyen continues to make one gaffe after the other.
This was not the only blunder the EU made that week.
After the publication of the contracts, the row escalated further as Brussels said it would be triggering an emergency provision in the Brexit deal to control COVID-19 vaccine exports, including the possible introduction of checks at the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland to prevent shipments entering the UK.
After fierce condemnation from London, Belfast, and Dublin, the EU performed a swift U-turn.
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However, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s trade adviser Shanker Singham the “damage was done” and the trust between Ireland and Brussels “eroded”.
Mr Singham told Express.co.uk: “It was a spectacular blunder.
“It is quite hard to imagine doing anything worse than this.
“And the speed, in which they said they can under certain circumstances put a border on the island without consulting anyone.
“Well, it has without a doubt affected their relationship with Ireland significantly.”
The trade expert added: “The Irish government must be highly suspicious of anything the EU is doing or saying now.
“Because if I were them, I wouldn’t think the EU has necessarily my best interests at heart.
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“Obviously, the EU has 27 member states with their own interests… so the notion that they would privilege the Irish has never made much sense.
“But it has now made the Irish understand they are not a priority in respect to the EU.”
This week, Ms von der Leyen admitted the EU underestimated the rolling out of vaccines and that “we are not where we want to be” in the fight against the coronavirus.
The former German minister said the 27-nation bloc had been “too optimistic” about vaccine mass production and that lessons had been learned.
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