James Ward, PA
The European Union must have “leverage” over vaccine producers who fail to fulfil their contracts, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheál Martin made the comments following a virtual meeting of the European Council meeting to address the bloc’s vaccination campaigns on Thursday evening.
At the meeting, EU leaders discussed plans to increase export controls, which would allow for curbs on sending vaccines to non-member states, while keeping supply chains open.
Afterwards, vaccine supplier AstraZeneca was warned it must deliver the number of doses contracted to the EU before it can export doses out of the bloc, according to The Irish Times.
"Companies have to honour their contract to the European Union before they export to other regions in the world. This is of course the case with AstraZeneca," European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told journalists following the online summit.
US President Joe Biden also joined leaders of the 27 member states, where he pledged to renew the transatlantic partnership between the EU and the United States.
There isn't a single challenge that the 🇪🇺🇺🇸 cannot meet if we stand and work together.
Welcome to see such a strong commitment to rebooting the EU-US relationship as @POTUS joined the #EUCO virtual meeting tonight. pic.twitter.com/PcXvHuoRJW
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) March 25, 2021
Mr Martin told RTÉ: “First of all, I think what was clear was the consensus of the urgent need to make sure we can increase production and have consistent supply of vaccines in Quarter two.
“The importance of keeping supply chains open was reaffirmed, as well as the importance of export authorisation mechanisms, particularly in the context of AstraZeneca and companies who don’t fulfil their contracts. That there’s a mechanism there to engage.”
He added: “The point was made that the EU has been the most significant exporter of vaccines in the world.
“The export authorisation mechanism has made that transparent. In other words, vaccines are being exported from Europe to all parts of the world.
“The European continent is actually the premier producer of vaccines for the global market.
“In the context of companies that fail to fulfil their contracts with the European Union, leverage is there. Leverage has to be there to ensure that contracts are fulfilled.
“The European Union can have certain safety nets and respect of making sure it has the sufficiency of vaccines for its own population.”
It comes following a cooling of the vaccine standoff between the EU and UK, which has been escalating in recent weeks.
A joint statement issued this week said both sides were taking “specific steps” to create a “win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens”.
The Taoiseach said: “People welcomed the fact that the United Kingdom and Europe are now engaged in a process to work together in terms of that issue and the wider issue of keeping those supply chains open.”
Mr Martin also welcomed the contribution of Mr Biden, who confirmed plans to work closely with Europe on the vaccine rollout.
“President Biden made a very strong presentation to the Council, in the sense of really renewing and resetting, in the strongest way possible, that transatlantic partnership.
“And saying America is all in, in terms of its commitment to that,” Mr Martin said.
“But also saying that the US and the Commission are now working closely together to remove any bottlenecks in respect of both the production and the delivery of vaccines.
“I think it was a very positive intervention by the president and certainly indicating a new era in terms of the European-US relationship.”