Daily US Times: France has accused the United Kingdom of “blackmail” over its handling of Covid-19 vaccine exports amid continuing tensions between UK and Europe over supply chains.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, was asked whether the EU had been “scammed” by sending millions of doses to the UK while its own rollout stuttered.
He told France Info radio: “We need to build a co-operative relationship. But we cannot deal this way.”
France has called for the European Union to implement tougher coronavirus vaccine export controls. France’s accusation of UK ‘blackmail’ comes at a time when vaccine diplomacy turns sour between UK and Europe.
Vaccine rollouts have started sluggishly across the European Union, and the block has blamed pharmaceutical companies – primarily AstraZeneca – for not delivering its promised Covid-19 vaccine doses. Drugmaker AstraZeneca has denied that it is failing to honour its contract.
The EU is expecting to receive about 30 million doses from AstraZeneca by the end of March, less than a third of the 27 nation bloc it was hoping for.
Meanwhile, the UK’s vaccination drive has so far been more successful than that of the EU’s 27 member states.
On Thursday, after a virtual summit where EU leaders discussed vaccine supplies, Ursula von der Leyenm, European Commission President, said the bloc was the “region that exports most vaccines worldwide” and invited other countries to “match our openness”.
She also said AstraZeneca must “catch up” on its vaccine deliveries to the EU before exporting doses elsewhere.
The foreign minister of France said on Friday that the EU “shouldn’t be paying the price” for the UK’s vaccination policy.
He also criticised its approach to purchasing vaccine doses, claiming the UK would struggle to source and supply second shots.