EU vaccine row 'could impact a third covid wave' says expert
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Mr Draghi will attempt to organise virtual meetings with the French President and the German Chancellor ahead of the European Council summit later this week, La Repubblica has reported.
The Italian leader will come up with a plan to speed up vaccinations across member states in the hope Mr Macron and Ms Merkel will sign up to it ahead of the summit, putting pressure on the Commission President to step aside from the rollout, the paper said.
The Italian newspaper read: “For the next few days, then, the prime minister is studying the possibility of organising a series of informal contacts to prepare the work of the summit.
“The discussions will primarily concern Germany and France: Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. After all, Berlin, Paris and Rome represent the largest members of the EU, from an economic point of view and by population. A preferential axis is almost physiological.”
The goal is to arrive united at the summit, leaving little room for the Commission to reject the proposal.
The paper’s exclusive report concluded: “It is a situation that in such a dramatic phase for the life of all European countries cannot be ignored.”
The Commission President has come under fire over her handling of vaccine procurement contracts with jab producers.
Ms von der Leyen’s failures worsened last week when she threatened the UK with a ban on vaccine exports from the UK, something Italy, France and Germany largely agree on.
But this is the second time the Commission chief has put the unity of the bloc under pressure in a bid to punish Britain for leaving the EU.
The EU boss threatened the UK with a trigger of Article 16 of the Brexit protocol earlier this year, which would have halted exports of goods to Northern Ireland.
To make things worse, 13 member states, including Italy, France and Germany, suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns about possible side effects.
The move resulted in confidence in the Oxford jab plummeting among Europeans who are now in mass refusing to take the vaccine.
The Italian Prime Minister said on Friday he would personally take the Anglo-Swedish vaccine but defended last week’s temporary suspension.
Italy resumed use of the Anglo-Swedish vaccine on Friday following a green light from Europe’s medicines watchdog EMA, after a three-day pause due to fears about possible blood clotting.
Speaking after his cabinet approved some 32 billion euros (£27.5 billion) of stimulus measures to support the battered economy, Mr Draghi said he was convinced that any reluctance of Italians to take the vaccine would only be temporary.
The new spending decree, which was already budgeted for by the previous government led by Giuseppe Conte that collapsed in January, finances furlough schemes and grants to businesses forced to close by coronavirus lockdowns.
He said: “The aim is to give as much money as possible to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.”
Mr Draghi added “now is not the time” to worry about Italy’s rising public debt, proportionally the second highest in the eurozone.
The decree increases benefits for the unemployed and provides fresh financing for the health service as Italian hospitals grapple with a steady rise in coronavirus infections.
The government also extended a freeze on firing which was due to expire on March 31. For large businesses which have access to furlough schemes the extension runs until the end of June, while for small firms it continues through October.
The firing ban was introduced last year to prevent a surge in unemployment while companies and shops were shuttered to stem COVID-19.
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