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The details are still a bit murky, but apparently the text of the draft regulation introducing the possibility of export controls circulated to other Commissioners didn't include the offending reference to A. 16. It was, allegedly, a last minute inclusion, introduced at a technical level, when someone pointed out the risk of vaccines leaking across the Irish land border.

This may all be self-serving nonsense, of course, but it may be that Valdis Dombrovskis, EU Trade Commissioner, was the only senior official to see it before it went "live". If this is the case, it would be surprising as Dombrovskis is the co-chair of a joint EU/UK committtee with Michael Gove overseeing the operation of the N. Ireland protocol, and would have been aware of the political sensitivities.

If this story is to be believed, the final text was only e-mailed to relevant officials, working from home, 30 minutes before it was officially adopted under an emergency procedure. It's not surprising that some officials, reading a dense text for the first time, didn't get to the offending paragraph in time, even if they had begun reading it immediately on receipt.

In any case it was retracted within hours, following frantic phone calls between Michael Martin and Ursula VD Leyen, and shouldn't be regraded as much more of an administrative SNAFU quickly corrected. This has not prevented Brexiteers and unionists trying to turn it into a major international incident. I also don't think it reflects badly on Ursula VD Leyen personally, as she would have been relying on her staff to deal with such matters.

So whatever you might think of Ursula VD Leyen for other reasons, blaming her for this is confirmation bias, except in the purely formal sense that she is ultimately responsible for everything the Commission does.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 8th, 2021 at 11:19:14 AM EST
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by Bernard on Mon Feb 8th, 2021 at 08:44:00 PM EST
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The Co-Chair of the N. Ireland Protocol implementation committee is  Maros Sevcovic, not Valdis Dombrovskis, which may help to explain why the latter didn't prevent the A.16 blunder.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 9th, 2021 at 01:07:25 AM EST
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I wouldn't so much criticize the commission and its president for the vaccination delay problem where member states dragged their feet and didn't want to spend too much money.

What is concerning is that this vaccine export control act is a political performance act that is practically mostly useless. Export controls or not, vaccination will probably go full speed ahead only in Q2. Oh but now we have to be seen to do something quickly! Thus they cooked something up through an emergency procedure, end of the day ->> splash. And who set this train in motion? That's where we have the direct responsibility of vdl.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Thu Feb 11th, 2021 at 09:53:19 AM EST
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I would take it a step further: the real problem is a lack of industrial policy to ensure that the EU has a good supply of home-made medicine. Such an industrial policy should at minimum include a medicine patent policy with the kind of clause Indian post-colonial patent policy had until the 90ies: if you don't produce in our territory we see no reason to hand out monopolies.

But preferably EU should go full delinkage: scrap patents for medicines, finance research from the public purse (grants and awards), and have competition in production. It was on the WHO agenda in 2014 and it had support including willingness to pitch in to research from the global South but it was shot down, mainly by the US.

In the current situation even pondering allowing generic production for vaccines that isn't delivered would probably scare Pharma enough to make EU a top priority.

by fjallstrom on Thu Feb 11th, 2021 at 10:34:14 AM EST
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AFAIK the Commission doesn't really do independent tribunals of inquiry like national governments do. But one should be instigated now to investigate what went wrong and make proposals for ensuring we are better prepared for future public health emergencies.

My guess is such a tribunal would make recommendations along the following lines:

  1. Establish permanent European medicines and medical equipment procurement agency (to maximise EU bulk buying procurement leverage and develop proactive policies to improve preparedness)

  2. Establish permanent public health research commissioning and funding agency. (Research should be prioritised by public benefit rather than private profit)

  3. Ensure the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has a fast-tract procedure for the emergency approval of medicines and coordinates with 2. above to ensure their is a proactive research program in place to anticipate future crises.

  4. Develop industrial policy/strategy to ensure that key/core manufacturing capabilities are developed in line with future needs within the EU. (To prevent another PPE scramble, but also to reduce dependency on vulnerable supply chains. This could be similar to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and become a Common Industrial Policy (CIP), and apply more broadly to strategic industries in general, not just Pharma and Medtech.

It is important that any such proposals should be arrived at independently of the Commission, as otherwise the Commission will be accused of more scope creep and empire building. Perhaps the Tribunal of Enquiry should report to the Council and Parliament, rather than the Commission. Eurosceptics always complain that the Commission's answer to any shortcomings is always "more Europe", but in this case it may be that that is precisely what is needed.


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 11th, 2021 at 01:35:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We should nuke patents in general, but the EU refusal to support the Indien/South African proposal is completely indefensible. We'd rather burn down the world economy than risk someone cooking up the solution in a bathtub.
by generic on Thu Feb 11th, 2021 at 09:24:00 PM EST
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