You might have thought that Europe's leaders would be wary of handing Brussels greater powers, given the various mishaps of the EU's vaccine procurement and roll out scheme since January. But for German Chancellor Angela Merkel the sorry episode has served less a chastening warning about the dangers of Euro integration than a justification for a more centralised state.
Speaking earlier this week in a video conversation with European People's party group leader Manfred Weber, Merkel aligned herself with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen whose handling of the pandemic has been widely criticised. The outgoing chancellor said 'it is good' that VdL wants more power to coordinate and regulate health issues, saying 'I believe that Europe needs more competencies in the area of health.' She agreed with Weber that the Conference on the Future of Europe should begin work on looking for a new basis in law for such power, adding 'Probably you also have to change the Treaties for this' and that 'Ideally we would have always taken a European approach when it comes to lockdowns.'
The spectre of a continental wide lockdown spanning Helsinki to Heraklion would presumably go down rather better in Cyprus, where cases are 954 per million people, than in Finland, where it is 47 per million. Not content with merely suggesting that von der Leyen be entrusted with the power to impose centrally enforced restrictions for 445 million people, Merkel also took a swipe at India's pharmaceutical industry claiming:
“We now have a situation with India where, in connection with the emergency situation of the pandemic, we are worried whether the pharmaceutical products will still come to us. Of course, we have only allowed India to become such a large pharmaceutical producer in the first place, also from the European side, in the expectation that this should then also be complied with. If that is not the case now, we will have to rethink.
Given the EU's own position on vaccine exports, where jab shipments to non-EU countries like Australia have been impounded, Steerpike wonders what right Merkel has to criticise India for potentially disrupting supply chains. Her claim too that the EU graciously 'allowed' India to become a pharmaceutical giant has not gone down well on the subcontinent, particularly when a record 332,730 new cases of coronavirus in India were registered today. Steerpike wonders how Merkel can be so tone deaf as to publicly worry whether pharmaceutical products 'will still come to us' when bodies are piling up at Delhi crematoriums.
It was only last month that the European Council president Charles Michel accused Britain of vaccine nationalism. What would Michel make of Merkel's comments if they had been made by a dastardly Brit instead?