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Current Affairs

The EU, COVID and Vaccinations

The EU is under some serious scrutiny for its handling of COVID-19, but how badly have they handled the pandemic?


18th March 2021 19:30 BST

The EU is wealthy, has good healthcare and is scientifically advanced. They should be more prepared than any to deal with a pandemic such as this one, especially with the help of the Union, providing support for the less wealthy members creating a much more equal playing field and mutual benefit for all. However, it seems that history will look badly upon the EU’s actions over the past year, casting a shadow of doubt for the members, and a sigh of relief for the UK Government, who will no doubt use these failures to their political advantage.


One reason for their shortcomings is their population. The EU has an old population, and its only getting older, with over 20% of its residents being over 65. This definitely won’t help their death rates, with the virus being far more deadly to the elderly. However, some theories suggest that an older population should help keep cases down, due to their less active and social lifestyles, but the elderly often feel more disconnected to their government, so may be less likely to follow guidelines.


The EU also has poor population distribution to handle such a virus. Tight, crowded cities allow the virus to spread easier in the tight packed streets and apartments of central Europe. Free movement has also cost them dearly. What was once such a proud achievement of the EU, butting traditional border searches behind them, has become a problem for containing outbreaks.


The style of EU politics has also not helped the union. The belief that they will come out the other side of crises stronger for it has worked in the past, in events like the migration crisis of 2015, but works less well when the failures are far more global and exponential. Time is everything in a pandemic and the laid-back approach really doesn’t blend well with that. Whilst a sense of unity and belief can go a long way, it seems that what was once hailed as a landmark of EU politics – acting after the event to ensure it won’t happen again – isn’t always so successful.


Complacency – Poor negotiations, lack of ambition

The brunt of EU complacency has been seen in the vaccine numbers. Lagging far behind the UK and US, their vaccine program has been constantly criticised ever since its more western counterparts started to see the true power of fast and efficient vaccinations. Pooling together recourses for a union wide vaccine drive should’ve always been the aim, and it was, but its contract negotiations were so badly mismanaged, focusing on the price over the security of supply, it led to the suppliers sending their shipments elsewhere.


The issue was with the EU’s small role in healthcare before the pandemic. Public health had almost always been overseen by the individual member countries, with the EU health commissioner often hailing form a rather small member state. Countries became far too selfish in their negotiations, grinding them to a halt, as the ideas of mutual benefit slowly drifted away.


Since then, trust in their vaccination program has worsened, with threats to blockade vaccine exports coming across as desperate attempts from a worried and panicking EU. Vaccines are rolling out very slowly, and nearby non-EU member Serbia is outpacing every single EU member’s vaccination rate. It is not a pretty picture for Ursula von der Leyen.


The consequences will be profound, with a much slower economic recovery and a poor reputation for years to come. Their death rate may be lower than both the US’s and the UK’s, but money talks.

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