Dave Keating Profile picture
Mar 19, 2021 • 17 tweets • 5 min read
I keep seeing the line 'EU is having vaccine problems because it was too slow in negotiating contracts' repeated in 🇬🇧&🇺🇸 media.

I want to push back on this narrative because I think it's missing where real EU-level mistakes lie. Let's review what happened in past year (🧵1/17)
AstraZeneca signed purchasing agreement with EU one day before its agreement with UK.

AZ CEO told an EP hearing last month that UK priority comes from research funding agreement Oxford signed with UK gov in Jan/Feb 2020, inherited by AZ when it partnered with Oxford in May 2020.
🇬🇧 was smart to start funding vax research before #Covid19 even hit Europe. But they made a consequential choice by (apparently) making funding conditional to Brits getting doses of any resulting vaccine 1st.

🇩🇪 funded BioNTech but did not include any Europe 1st clause.
Meanwhile in March 2020, President Trump tried unsuccessfully to steal BioNTech from Germany to bring it to the US.

Despite this warning, apparently nobody in EU thought it might be a bad idea for BioNTech to be partnered with Pfizer, an American company.
politico.eu/article/german…
That 🇩🇪 nationality-agnostic approach to pharma partners was not the approach used across the channel in 🇬🇧.

Oxford was originally going to partner with American company Merck. But the UK gov overruled it and made them partner with UK-based AstraZeneca.
news.sky.com/story/covid-19… Image
The 🇬🇧 concern over 🇺🇸 vaccine nationalism turned out to be well-founded.

With BioNTech-Pfizer partnership secure, Trump seemed to be in no hurry to sign Pfizer purchase contracts.

Why? He knew a US vaccine export ban would make a contract unnecessary.
theguardian.com/world/2020/dec…
Pfizer has massive production capacity in the US. If US law prevented any of those doses made on US soil from being exported, they would have to go to the US in any event.

The result can be seen in the supply chain. 🇺🇸 plants used to supply 🇺🇸, 🇪🇺 plants used to supply 🌍.
Sure enough, Trump signed an executive order in December 2020 giving Americans 1st priority to any vaccines made on US territory.

In fact it was largely symbolic. Trump & Biden have instead used the Defence Production Act as the legal basis for their ban. presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/exec…
Also in December 2020, the UK & US used the emergency use authorisation method to approve Pfizer, while the EU used the more cautious conditional marketing approval method, resulting in EU approving 2-3 weeks later.

UK gave emergency use approval to AstraZeneca on 30 December.
When 🇪🇺 gave conditional marketing approval to AstraZeneca on 29 Jan, the company informed EU it would not be meeting original dosage delivery promise because of production problems in EU plant. Seems doses to be reserved for 🇪🇺 had gone to 🇬🇧

The battle between EU & AZ began
The Commission said AZ signed a contract saying it would use all 4 of its production facilities, 2 in UK and 2 in EU, to deliver to EU - so the shortfall should be made up with exports from the UK.

AZ's CEO said they couldn't because of a 'UK 1st' clause.
repubblica.it/cronaca/2021/0…
That battle has raged on without resolution. AZ will only deliver 30m out of promised 80m for Q1 and 70m of promised 180m in Q2, EC says.

Meanwhile EU has exported 10m (mostly Pfizer) doses to UK, while 'UK 1st' clause stops AZ from meeting EU delivery promise from UK plants.
Across the pond, the US export ban has meant 🇨🇦,🇲🇽&🇯🇵 have to get their Pfizer doses from EU plants instead. (🇪🇺 has exported 4.6m doses to 🇨🇦, 3.8m to 🇲🇽, 4m to 🇯🇵)

Situation particularly absurd for 🇨🇦, which must get its Pfizer from Belgium instead of next door in Michigan.
Even US has received vaccine exports from EU: 1 million in February, and 3.9 million doses of Johnson & Johnson a few weeks ago according to the NYT.

J&J doses made in US can't go to EU.

Overall it appears EU has exported half the doses made here. nytimes.com/2021/02/28/wor… Image
These export numbers were revealed last week and Europeans were furious.

In was in this context President Von Der Leyen said on Wednesday the EU is considering an export ban to vaccine-producing countries who don't reciprocate.

Germany, France and Italy are pushing this idea.
What mistakes did EU make? To me it seems obvious.

🇪🇺 took decisions based on an assumption of a free market and good faith from its partners. They didn’t think forcing an EU partner on BioNTech was essential, or EU plants should be for Europeans 1st.

That now appears naive.
EU assumed good behavior. US & UK manoeuvred to benefit themselves.

Many EU countries flubbed vaccine rollouts. EU negotiations & approval maybe took too long.

But what's striking is, for many in US & UK there seems to be 1 set of rules for them and another for everyone else.

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More from @DaveKeating

May 25
Breaking: 🇪🇺Commission right now proposing new law to confiscate and sell Russian assets in the union.

This is a big step beyond just freezing the assets, which is what they've done already.
The rules would target 🇷🇺 assets skirting EU sanctions, as part of a larger framework on targeting all assets from organised crime.

"Organised crime has become more international," says VP @MargSchinas. "70% of organised criminal groups now operate in more than one country"
There are existing rules on seizing assets profiting from crime but they are fragmented and not uniformly enforced, 🇪🇺VP Schinas says.

Given the Russian situation, they need to be rapidly updated because there is no time to lose, he says.
Read 5 tweets
May 24
🇪🇺President @VonDerLeyen at #Davos2022: "This war and this 🇷🇺 behavior has only strengthened Europe's resolve to get rid of Russian fossil fuel dependency."

"The climate cannot wait. But now the geopolitical reasons are evident too. We have to diversify away from fossil fuels."
"🇺🇦 must win this war" says 🇪🇺President VDL. "Putin's aggression must be a strategic failure"

"We will do everything we can to help 🇺🇦 prevail and retake the future into their hands. For the first time in our history, 🇪🇺 is providing military aid to a country under attack"
"We will – hand in hand – help Ukraine rise from the ashes," says @VonDerLeyen. "That is the idea behind the reconstruction platform that I have proposed to President @ZelenskyyUa.

"The amount of work is colossal. But together, we can and we will master the challenge."
Read 8 tweets
May 9
So why are the Nordic & Eastern EU countries opposed to treaty change and the Western & Southern countries are (increasingly) for it? Size matters.

Smaller countries don't want to lose their ability to veto EU laws (like we're seeing now with Hungary vetoing the 🇷🇺oil embargo).
So the battle lines are being drawn. Why did this all come to a head today? It started in 2017, when Macron had the idea for a citizen's convention to recommend reforms for the EU.

But it was steadily diluted, almost designed to fail. berlinpolicyjournal.com/has-eu-reform-…
EU national governments are still traumatized by the constitution-turned-Lisbon-Treaty experience of 2000s. They're scared of opening the pandora's box of treaty change again.

But this change is a normal part of the EU's development. This is the longest EU has gone without it.
Read 7 tweets
May 9
#Macron has taken the floor after receiving the recommendations of the citizens’ #CoFoE conference, including a call for treaty change.

He says Europe must unite, including in defence, in order to protect member countries from the Russian threat.
Macron says the conference’s proposals will be evaluated in September and then acted upon [possibly with a convention drawing up treaty change, for instance].

He says the conference will not be just a talking shop. He promises EU reform.
And here it is, the big announcement:

#Macron says, in English, 🇪🇺 must do “whatever it takes” (quoting 🇮🇹PM #Draghi) to become sovereign & efficient.

That will mean reforming treaties, and he will discuss this with other leaders at the June #EUCO summit.
Read 5 tweets
May 9
The closing ceremony of the #CoFoE conference recommending 🇪🇺 treaty change has started with an interpretive dance recital and I’m really confused. audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/ebs/live/2
Now Guy Verhofstadt is speaking in French and I’m really confused!

Never seen him speak in anything other than English in this hemicycle.
Now he’s speaking English.

“In contrast to what we may think, people don’t fear change,” Verhofstadt tells national EU governments. “On the contrary, they urge us to reform the 🇪🇺union, and they want this to happen now.”
Read 7 tweets
May 9
How immensely typical.

EU national governments ask citizens to recommend reforms for 🇪🇺. Then, when they don't like what's been recommended (treaty change), 10 of them write a letter scolding the citizens: 🇩🇰🇸🇪🇫🇮🇪🇪🇱🇻🇱🇹🇸🇮🇧🇬🇨🇿🇲🇹politico.eu/newsletter/bru…
But not every country agrees with these 10 reactionaries that 🇪🇺 works perfectly fine.

🇮🇹PM Draghi endorsed treaty change earlier this month.

🇫🇷President Macron is expected to do so at his speech accepting the #CoFoE recommendations in 2 hours. audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/ebs/live/2
This #CoFoE didn't end up being the bold exercise Macron originally envisioned. The power-preserving instincts of national capitals kicked in (as I wrote here in 2020).

But today Macron will try to ride current momentum for change driven by 🇷🇺 invasion.
berlinpolicyjournal.com/has-eu-reform-…
Read 4 tweets

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