Vaccine ‘Fiasco’ Damages Europe’s Credibility

The European Union’s failure to secure adequate vaccine supplies, followed by an export ban, has dented the reputation of the bloc’s leaders. It may also hurt their ability to act in other areas.


By Steven Erlanger

BRUSSELS — Alain Walravens, 63, is waiting to be invited for a first coronavirus vaccination. So are Marion Pochet, 71, a retired translator, and her husband, Jean-Marc. At least, Ms. Pochet said, they both have had Covid-19, “so we have some immunity, at least for the moment.”

All three are sharply critical of the European Union, which took control of vaccine procurement and distribution and is widely considered to have done worse than its main partners, the United States and Britain, let alone Israel, which have all gotten vaccines into a much larger percentage of their populations than Europe.

So far, only about 11 percent of the bloc’s population has received at least one vaccine shot, compared with 46 percent in Britain and 29 percent in the United States.

As European countries lock down again in a third wave of the virus, the reputation and credibility of the European Union and its executive arm, the European Commission, are much in play.

“This is the fault of the European Union,” said Mr. Walravens, an events organizer.

“In other countries where the vaccination is going faster, there are real results,” he added. “The number of cases is going down. Here in Belgium, the hospitals are getting saturated.”

For decades, the European Union has sold itself not just as the best antidote to another European war, but as “the Europe that protects,” arguing that by its collective size and shared sovereignty, it will deliver a better, longer and more prosperous life to all. That promise now looks hollow, and risks undermining the bloc’s credibility when it comes to major challenges like climate change, migration and a rising China.

Brussels has always taken pride in its technocratic rule-setting for the world, but it has just lost Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, and even before the pandemic was suffering from low growth and a shrinking share of global trade.

After every crisis, whether it was Kosovo or the euro debt disaster, the usual answer is “more Europe.” But unless Brussels can turn matters around quickly, its vaccine crisis may cause member states to resist granting further authority to the Commission.

“This has been catastrophic for the reputation of the European Union,” said Mark Leonard, the director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Source: Read Full Article