A shorter version of this article was published by Newsmax.
By May, the United States will have enough COVID-19 vaccine for its entire adult population. The Canadians and British are quickly catching up. In contrast, the European Union lags far behind. There are serious shortages virtually everywhere.
Why? First, the EU is less than friendly to free markets as a matter of its regulatory mentality and socialistic ideology. Second, Brussels tends to be paralyzed by its top-heavy bureaucracy, moving often at glacial speeds. Third, its centralizing predilections make the “European project” averse to diversification and delegation of powers to achieve efficiency. Fourth, the nature of its transnational governance precludes sensitivity to the affairs of individual nation-states as does its anti-nationalist animus.
Faced with criticism for their disastrous performance, EU top bureaucrats turned to obfuscation. Led by Ursula von der Leyen, who heads the European Commission, they refused to come clean about their own ineptness. For example, they besmirched and retarded the distribution of the privately-developed AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish consortium, which became available quite swiftly and sold at market prices. A German newspaper was scathing: “Von der Leyen has either knowingly lied to 447 million Europeans, or didn’t know what she was talking about.”
The vaccine fiasco has become such an embarrassment for the Eurocrats that even such stalwart transnationalist centralizers, and former commissioners, as Jean-Claude Juncker and Guy Verhofstadt took to criticizing von der Leyen and her team. Verhofstadt actually thinks the problem is in permitting private firms to export their vaccine outside of the EU. Yet, it was Brussels that has allowed that in the name of internationalism. The failure to protect Europe’s own people first is obvious. No talk about an alleged “Great Reset” (driven by “multilateralism” and “tolerance,” of course) to come in the wake of the pandemic will detract from it.
Thus, the Europeans have found themselves in a pickle: too many people, too little vaccine. There is anger, confusion, and other attendant phenomena. Fear spread in particular: the fear of vaccination and the fear of not being able to get vaccinated. Now it looks like everyone wants an anti-COVID shot, but there is not enough.
Both crooks and politicians have capitalized on fear. Conmen had offered about 14 billion dollars’ worth of non-existing vaccine continent-wide before they were exposed last month.
Leaders scramble frantically to find suppliers. Only a few seem cautious. For instance, the Swiss have rejected a supply from a source rumored to be unproven, perhaps unwisely. Others seem much less concerned.
Because of the failure of Brussels to procure enough vaccine, the ballyhooed “European solidarity” is out the window. Each nation-state stands for itself. Germany comes across as most hypocritical. After months of hectoring nations like Hungary about its alleged breaches of solidarity for going outside of the system to find vaccine for its people, the Federal Republic is rumored to have all the while negotiated separately from the EU to secure anti-COVID shots for its citizens.
In contrast, Budapest became impatient already last year and openly announced that it would seek vaccine at any source to save the Hungarian people from the pandemic. The government turned to China, Russia, and anywhere else. Prime Minister Viktor Orban got himself vaccinated live on TV with a dose made by China’s Sinopharm: Anything that works is good enough for Hungary. Let’s hope it works then.
Going outside of the EU has become the new norm. Both Czechia and Slovakia have turned to Russia for Moscow’s Sputnik V vaccine. Now even the Poles seriously mull over approaching the Chinese. The Polish government, however, has stated its preference for the AstraZeneca, but that is not to be had. Meanwhile, Denmark and Austria are in talks with Israel to develop a serum for the second round of shots. At least we know that the Israeli product is reported as successful.
Incidentally, preliminary results from Ireland, which mostly uses the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (but also a bit of AstraZeneca and Moderna), have been encouraging. The vaccines appear to work. The Irish have so far vaccinated their most vulnerable: medical workers and the elderly. But only 360,000 doses have been administered to a population of about 4.9 million, not nearly enough.
European politicians continue to enhance their power as most people are cowed by fear. Stringent lockdown rules apply across the continent. For example, Czechia has cracked down on anti-COVID dissent and has deployed 30,000 police to enforce the COVID-driven restrictions. Poland alternates between partial unlocking and complete re-locking down. However, Warsaw has warned the Poles that it would shut down the country totally for Easter.
Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin have pledged to maintain their lockdowns until the end of March. Further, Germany has unofficially suspended the Schengen agreement, which guarantees free travel among most EU member states. Chancellor Angela Merkel has blocked access of people and goods from Austria and Czechia; there are restrictions on private and commercial movement on the French-German border as well as on the Danish frontier.
Brussels may have failed to deliver the vaccine, but, undaunted, von der Leyen has unveiled yet another centralizing project: vaccination passports for everyone: No passport, no travel. This is all in the name of a familiar slogan: “more Europe.”
And “more Europe” increasingly means “less freedom,” and more restrictions. That’s sort of like what we have in the Blue states in the US. America’s friends in the EU are jealous to hear about Florida, Texas, and other Red jurisdictions. The proof of freedom is also in the pudding, and not in Brussels.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, D.C., 7 March 2021