How well has the EU dealt with the pandemic? According to Ursula von der Leyen, the bloc's performance has been world beating. In an address yesterday, the Commission president lauded her own performance while claiming that the EU had proven its detractors wrong. During her so-called 'state of the union', she said:
“We all heard the nagging questions, especially in the first months of this pandemic: aren't nation states better equipped to fight this crisis? Isn't our union of 27 too slow to react? And our processes too cumbersome and our stakeholders too diverse? Today I am here to say: Europe has proven these claims wrong...Most importantly we decided to procure vaccines together in our union. This was the right decision even if there were doubts, especially at the beginning of this year. I don't even want to imagine what it would have meant if some large member states had secured their vaccines while the rest — all the small and medium sized member states — went left empty handed. Just think of the consequences for our internal market.
That would be the same EU that failed to stop its larger members like France and Germany implementing export bans on PPE at the start of the pandemic — meaning, er, small and medium-sized members were left empty handed.
Or take the vaccine rollout: von der Leyen claimed that the EU had proven that it can 'deliver in times of crisis for its own citizens and for the rest of the world'. Those in Australia might be a little surprised to hear that Brussels is claiming it 'delivered' for other countries, given the fact it blocked the export of AstraZeneca vaccines back in February.
Meanwhile, European citizens suffered a slower start to their vaccination programmes because the EU failed to properly fill its vaccine order book, placing orders late and haggling with manufacturers over prices.
If von der Leyen thinks that her critics are primarily concerned about the 'diversity' of the EU's 'stakeholders' then it isn't just her procurement skills that are lacking...