German politician breaks rank to attack EU – but Merkel says NOTHING went wrong

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Meanwhile, Mrs Merkel has once again courted controversy by talking about the “British virus” – a reference to the new strain of COVID-19 identified in Kent in December. The European Union has been sharply criticised in many quarters, both for its struggles to secure sufficient doses of the various coronavirus vaccines, and the slow rollout.

Figures published by Our World In Data suggest just three percent of the nearly 450 million people who live in the EU27 have received their first jab, compared with 14 percent in the UK.

Speaking to German broadcaster ZDF last night, Mr Soeder, Prime Minister of Bavaria, said: “The procedure was accompanied by many misjudgments.”

The European Commission’s EU Commission’s vaccine procurement had been “disappointing”.

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He backed the EU’s decision to vaccine collectively rather than leaving it to the individual countries.

However, he added: “However, the process was accompanied by many incorrect assessments.”

The Commission had badly misjudged how rapidly an effective vaccine would be available, which manufacturers would be most successful, and “that you are in international competition with other countries when ordering,” said Mr Soeder, who is leader of Christian Social Union (CSU), the long-term coalition partners of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union (CDU).

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“Of course that creates annoyance, anger, disappointment!”

By contrast, in a separate interview with RTL, another German broadcaster, Mrs Merkel sought to defend the EU’s strategy.

She said: “We have to be very, very careful now so that not as many people die on the last stretch.

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“I sometimes wake up at night and think about things.

“Nor did I see that this would happen so quickly and efficiently from the virus’s point of view.”

Meanwhile, in contrast with Mr Soeder, when asked for her assessment of the EU’s approach, she said: “I believe the basic decisions were correct.”

Questioned about what would happen after February 14, the date when the lockdown in effect in Germany is currently scheduled to end, Mrs Merkel returned to a phrase which raised eyebrows earlier this year in relation to the Kent strain.

She said: “I can’t tell you yet what we’re going to do on Wednesday because I have to wait five days for the development.

“Because I have to look at how far the British virus has already got.”

Mrs Merkel is due to stand down as German leader later this year, and the race to succeed her is already on.

Armin Laschet beat Friedrich Merz to become CDU leader last month, replacing Annegret-Kramp Karrenbauer – but the Prime Minister of North Rhine Westphalia’s accession to the Chancellorship is far from guaranteed.

A poll published last month in Der Spiegel suggested Mr Soeder is preferred by 40 percent of Germans, significantly ahead of anyone else – and despite the fact that he has not yet declared his candidacy.

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)

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