The European Union has “done everything wrong” and is facing a “vaccination disaster”, a top German journalist has admitted.
Writing in the Times on Monday, Peter Tiede – chief political reporter for German daily newspaper Bild – points the finger at Ursula von der Leyen, the embattled chief of the European Commission, for a “mess” that has “disgraced Europe”.
“Oh, how we Germans made fun of those strange Brexit birds with the weird Euro-populist Boris Johnson at their head,” Tiede wrote. “Of all people, it was Johnson who got it right: he ordered vaccines for the British in time, generously and sufficiently. In surplus!”
A former German defence minister, von der Leyen is under severe scrutiny for her role in Europe’s vaccination debacle, just over.a year into her presidency of the commission.
Brussels has been involved in a high-stakes battle with AstraZeneca since the drug giant revealed late last month that it would significantly underdeliver on the number of vaccines it had planned to deliver to the EU this year – despite continuing to fulfil its contract with the UK.
That struggle peaked on Friday night, when it emerged that von der Leyen – in the process of outlining new vaccine export controls – had triggered a key clause in the month-old Brexit treaty to restrict exports to Northern Ireland, uniting politicians in Dublin, London and Belfast in uproar.
In the days since, the debacle has been squarely blamed on von der Leyen – with the European press particularly scathing of the German’s role in the EU’s sluggish inoculation programme.
Brussels, Tiede wrote, “created the biggest confidence-destroying programme in its history. On top of this, Brussels and the governments of the EU states have managed to confirm the old prejudice of a sluggish Europe.
“Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, denies all blame. Whistling loudly in the dark and thus damaging even further any confidence in her ability to run the EU. Music to the ears of the populists and anti-democrats.
“As Germany’s defence minister, she had already failed miserably in the procurement of helicopters, aircraft and weapons. Angela Merkel ordered her away to the European Commission.
“Just as Europe has been doing for decades with its discarded political personnel: disposed of like nuclear waste in the final repository of Brussels. That is the story that Johnson has told the British again and again. He, the European populist. Now, we agree with him.”
“We have done everything wrong and are struggling with a vaccination disaster,” he added. “Germany, of all countries!
“Industrial power, clever nation, kings of cleanliness and order. We screwed up. We ordered too little, too late. We were too stingy, too lame. As a result, Poland and Hungary are already wondering what on earth the EU is all about.”
It is “embarrassing”, Tiede concludes, “because we are now the fools.”