Kurz gamble backfires: Austria told NO country can veto EU’s vaccine programme

EU slammed by Kurz for 'bizarre' vaccine distribution

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Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz threatened to veto the purchase of 100m Pfizer/BionTech vaccine doses, saying he would block the move unless his country got a larger share. Mr Kurz demanded more jabs from the initial 10m to be delivered after warning the EU’s distribution plan was “uneven”.

And he refused to wait for official confirmation on the rollout, saying his country needed more than previously anticipated due to an ordering error.

But the threat has been promptly dismantled by European Council lawyers who said unanimity was not necessary for the purchase to go ahead.

EU ambassadors have been warned there is no legal way for individual states to block the purchase, two diplomats told Politico.

No one country holds veto power when it comes to procurement, the Council’s lawyers have confirmed.

In fact, the only thing that would need unanimity was a switch to an allocation scheme that does not follow the pro-rata approach the EU agreed on – which is what Mr Kurz is demanding.

The Council has decided to split 3 million of the delivery of 10 million vaccines between five EU countries that appeared to need it the most: Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia.

The rest of the EU member states will receive 7 million doses distributed on a pro-rata basis.

And the remaining 140,000 doses will be given to the Czech Republic as the country ordered enough pro-rata Pfizer vaccines but not enough of the other jabs available.

No additional doses will go to Austria.

As a result, the Austrian leader is now in talks with Russia to buy a million doses of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Mr Kurz is under fire from opposition parties because his government did not buy as many coronavirus vaccines as it could have under the European Union’s collective purchasing scheme.

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In a statement issued by his office, Mr Kurz said: “There must be no geopolitical blinkers regarding vaccines.”

He said Austria was in talks with Russia and Moscow has offered to sell it a million doses as of April.

He said: “The only thing that must count is whether the vaccine is effective and safe.”

The statement noted EMA had launched a rolling review of Sputnik V, but it did not repeat Mr Kurz’s previous comments that Austria would only use the vaccine if it is cleared by the regulator for the 27-nation EU.

Sputnik V has been approved for use in 58 countries, most recently Mali, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which promotes the vaccine abroad, said on Tuesday.

Mr Kurz has blamed an Austrian official on the EU’s vaccination steering board, where extra doses not bought up by member states are then redistributed, for deciding on purchases without consulting Vienna, and says he only recently learned of how the steering board system worked.

The official has been replaced.

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