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Maroš Šefčovič says the EU's vaccine rollout mistake was trusting vaccine suppliers 'too much'

The EC vice-president said that “we are sorry” in relation to the proposal to trigger Article 16 ahead of an Oireachtas committee appearance.

EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic leaving EU House, London.
EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic leaving EU House, London.
Image: PA Images

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION’S vice-president Maroš Šefčovič has said that the Commission has “already responded” to questions about the Article 16 controversy, and said that the EU’s vaccine rollout mistake may have been “trusting vaccine suppliers too much”.

In an interview with EuroNews’ Shona Murray, Šefčovič said that “we apologised for it, and we are sorry” in relation to the proposal to trigger Article 16, said that there was a need to dial down “heated rhetoric” around the problems with carrying out post-Brexit checks in Northern Ireland.

Responding to criticism of the EU’s vaccine rollout, which has been compared to the rollouts in the US and UK and deemed too slow by comparison, he told EuroNews:

“We are also very honest about what we could have done better. Maybe we trusted the vaccine suppliers too much that they would be able to deliver what they actually signed up to the contracts.
“Maybe they had to be, let’s say, more forceful in making sure that all the contracts [that] have been signed would be respected from day one.”

In her address to the European Parliament last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen admitted that the EU’s mistake was being “too confident” that the EU’s vaccine orders from pharma companies would be delivered on time. 

“We were late to authorise. We were too optimistic when it came to massive production, and perhaps too confident that what we ordered would actually be delivered on time.”

Von der Leyen also argued in favour of the 27-country approach to the vaccine rollout:

“I can’t even imagine if a few big players had rushed to it and the others went empty-handed. In economic terms it would have been nonsense and it would have been I think the end of our community.”

Oireachtas committee

Šefčovič is to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs tomorrow at 10am, via video link, to discuss the mistake made over the proposal to trigger Article 16, which could have meant checks between the six and 26 counties.

Šefčovič and UK Cabinet minister Michael Gove are engaged in talks to try to iron out problems there have been in implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol in the past month and a half.

Šefčovič told RTÉ’s The Week In Politics yesterday that the use of trusted trader schemes, simplifying export health certificates, and extending the grace period for traders were measures being considered to smooth the implementation of the Protocol.

“I believe that we found a very unique solution where Northern Ireland is part of the single market, and at the same time off course it is the part of the internet UK market.

“So I think there is the unique possibility for Northern Ireland to develop new jobs, new growth and to have really, a very, very special place in both in single market and also in the internal UK market.”

Gove has requested these measures, including the extension of the grace period until January 2023, in an open letter to the European Commission. 

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