Brexit: Lord Vaizey calls on Ursula von der Leyen to resign
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Mrs von der Leyen is expected to once again apologise for moving to trigger Article 16 of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement last month in a bid to ban vaccine exports from the EU to Northern Ireland. The Commission chief was also criticised for engaging in a bitter row with vaccine producer AstraZeneca, resulting in the EU institution being forced to publish its contract with the jab provider.
Peter Liese, the European People’s Party’s health spokesperson in the European Parliament, said Mrs von der Leyen will most likely see most of the attacks today coming from German MEPs in the Brussels chamber.
He said: “A lot of people in Germany are frustrated.”
He argued that while a lot of issues are still to be discussed, a lot of the criticism will be focused on party politics, adding: “it could be destroying Europe’s credibility in Germany.”
One EU diplomat went even further than that, telling Politico that Mrs von der Leyen “always wants the spotlight when there’s something to announce or celebrate, but winds in her neck when s**t hits the fan.”
The diplomat called the Commission President’s decision to appear before MEPs today “too little, too late.”
They added: “[Josep] Borrell’s only accomplishment this week was making von der Leyen look good.”
In a bit to defend Mrs von der Leyen ahead of her brutal grilling in Parliament, a Commission official said: “Is the EU, as a 27-country union slower than a single country?
“Does having 27 countries working together to a single end have advantages? Again, obviously, yes.”
They added: “Can you imagine if it had been otherwise — 27 member states fighting for vaccines?
“Smaller countries would likely have been left behind had big beasts like Germany gone it alone.
“The main beneficiaries would have been the pharma companies, who could have played countries off each other — as they like to do.”
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Others have come to the defence of the Commission chief’s over her row with AstraZeneca claiming it was the vaccine provider that failed to deliver on its EU contracts when it announced there will be a cut to the number of doses provided to the bloc.
S&D MEP Jytte Guteland said: “Now is the time to prioritise how the supply of vaccines should increase, not have internal blame games.
“I also suspect that the shortcomings of the European Commission have more to do with processes and bureaucracy than the capability of the negotiating team.”
On Monday, the EU’s Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly found the Commission had failed to ensure its European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) could act in a transparent way.
Ms O’Reilly blasted the Commission President as she claimed Mrs von der Leyen “played a trick” on Europeans.
She told Politico: “You should not set up an agency that calls itself the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and then not allow it to do that.
“That’s a trick that is being played on the public.”
The Ombudsman found the Commission failed to provide full transparency and accountability on the collection of Covid data from member states throughout the pandemic.
When the row broke out with AstraZeneca over demands to make its vaccine contract public, “suddenly the Commission was calling for transparency,” Ms O’Reilly said.
She added: “They saw the value in transparency because it was in their interest.
“So they need to perhaps spend as much time and attention looking at the public interest when releasing this.
“It can’t be the institutions who control the tap … the public interest has to override everything.”
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