EU dubbed ‘stifling’ and ‘uncooperative’ by Australian Senator before AstraZeneca row

EU: Expert slams Ursula von der Leyen on vaccine rollout

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Italy has blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine bound for Australia, embroiling Canberra in Europe’s outbreak of vaccine nationalism. Brussels officials confirmed the newly installed Italian Government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi had vetoed the shipment under an EU export control mechanism brought in on January 30 to keep coronavirus vaccines in the bloc. The move has heightened a tense dispute between AstraZeneca and EU countries over supply issues and delays.

Australia said losing “one shipment” would not badly affect its rollout but has nevertheless asked the European Commission to review Italy’s decision.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while he had requested the review, he could also understand why Italy made the decision.

He said: “In Italy, people are dying at the rate of 300 a day.

“And so I can certainly understand the high level of anxiety that would exist in Italy and in many countries across Europe.”

Australia’s Finance Minister Simon Birmingham added: “The world is in uncharted territory at present – it’s unsurprising that some countries would tear up the rule book.”

While the move has not been fiercely condemned by Australia, political commentators believe it could open a Pandora’s box and lead to a global battle for vaccines.

Australia has in the past been critical of the bloc.

In an exclusive interview with at the end of last year, Australian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz hit out at the EU for being “stifling” and not “cooperative” with Britain.

He said: “When the Brexit idea came up, I was quite excited.

“I saw some really great advantages for the UK and Commonwealth of nations.

“I am one of those people who believes the best way of government is when people can decide their own fate.

“Clearly, the EU was becoming very stifling.”

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He added: “I think the negotiations from the UK point of view have been good and robust.

“The EU

, I think, is somewhat dogmatic.

“You can’t blame them for that.

“What they want to show to every other potential defector country is that if you want to get out you will have a mess of problems.”

Mr Abetz has been a Senator for Tasmania since February 1994.

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He was the Minister for Employment and the Leader of the Government in the Senate in Tony Abbott’s government from 2013 to 2015.

He also previously served as Special Minister of State in the Howard Government from 2001 to 2006 and as Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation from 2006 to 2007.

Mr Abetz concluded: “It should be as easy to get into the EU as it is to get back out, but what they are clearly showing is that they are not letting countries exercising that right.”

At the time of the interview, Britain was trying to negotiate the Brexit trade deal.

The two sides finally reached an agreement on Christmas Eve after months of fraught negotiations.

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