EU unity crumbles as Italy snubs Brussels on vaccine – defies VDL and eyes own jabs

Vaccine row: Ursula von der Leyen says EU was ‘too confident’

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The Lega Governor of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, has warned the EU he is looking into buying doses of coronavirus vaccines outside the EU procurement programme. Mr Zaia is said to be joined by the Governor of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region Massimiliano Fedriga, also from Matteo Salvini’s Lega.

Governor Zaia had already launched the idea of taking things in his own hands in June.

He is now saying he is ready to buy a million doses.

The Friulian Governor immediately followed suit.

Mr Zaia said: “The Emilia-Romagna Region (led by Democratic Party politician Stefano Bonaccini) is also interested.

“The negotiation is in progress.

“It could be a matter of days. A step forward was taken in the negotiations and this gives us responsibility in terms of legality, sustainability and authorisations.

“The general manager Luciano Flor has a clear mandate, the path must be traced in clarity and legality.

“If all of this ends well, I can’t say right now.

“But I don’t accept anyone saying it’s a lie.

“It is much, much more than a few boxes, we are talking about millions of doses.”

He added: “There seems to be a share on the market that is not destined for the states, but for intermediaries.

“There are still guarantees of traceability.”

According to Anna Maria Bigon and Francesca Zottis, regional councillors of the Democratic Party, this would be “an effective and demagogic attempt to end up in the newspapers”

They said: “It is clear that the region, if it wants to buy vaccines on its own, is destined to pay a higher price than the one snatched by the European Union.

“And if there are willing entrepreneurs, they are welcome to pay, but why should they make a donation to the region to buy a product that is identical to that supplied by the EU, but at a cost that is five times higher?”

Replying to those who criticised him, Mr Zaia said: “It’s my job to get vaccines for the Venetians.

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“We have the elderly calling us crying and asking us to do so.”

President Fedriga echoed: “I would rather pay more for the vaccine doses and have them sooner and in large quantities.

“This would allow the region to reactivate the economy, avoid new closures and put the population in safety more quickly.

“Each closure caused by the virus costs billions.

“So we are looking for extra doses on the free market, outside the EU contracts.

“But costs are also to be considered, which in Friuli are estimated to be up to four times higher than the official ones of the European Union.”

The threatening plan comes as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged failings on Wednesday in the EU’s approval and rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 and said the bloc had learned lessons in the process.

The chief of the EU executive was speaking to MEPs in the European Parliament following criticism of the slow roll-out of vaccines and a plan to curb exports that initially sought to set up a hard border on the island of Ireland, causing an outcry in London and Dublin.

She said: “And yet it is a fact that we are not today where we want to be in the fight against the virus.

“We were late with the approval.

“We were too optimistic on mass production.

“And perhaps we were also too certain that the orders would actually be delivered on time.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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