Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, after hosting talks with five EU counterparts in Vienna, told reporters it was “important” to come up with a “technical” solution with Brussels institutions “so that for example, Bulgaria doesn’t receive only a third as much (per capita) as Malta”.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, the Czech Republic’s Andrej Babis and Slovenia’s Janez Jansa attended in person, with Croatia’s Andrej Plenkovic and Latvia’s Arturs Krisjanis Karins joining via videoconference.
The six countries complain that the current distribution of vaccines does not correspond to the principle agreed at between the EU 27 of distribution of doses according to population.
A mechanism whereby countries could make use of doses not claimed by other states was sharply criticised, with Kurz branding the system a “bazaar” last week.
“We were told that the EU member states should refrain from Chinese and Russian vaccines,” said Borisov, whose country is in the grip of a spike in coronavirus infections — as is the Czech Republic.
Kurz has become particularly active on the question of vaccine distribution amid growing evidence of discontent among Austrians with his government’s strategy.
Fifty-five percent of respondents to one survey published last weekend pronounced themselves “dissatisfied” with the government’s virus policies. More than a third said they supported the protests against coronavirus measures which have become more frequent in recent months.
The left-wing opposition Social Democrats (SPOe) has accused Kurz of seeking to distract from his own “mistakes” in his handling of the pandemic.
On Monday it was announced that the official in charge of Austria’s purchases of coronavirus vaccines, Clemens Auer, had resigned.
Ministers said Auer had failed to inform them it was possible to acquire more doses for Austria from among those not claimed by other member states.
The European Commission’s representative in Vienna Martin Selmayr observed on Twitter that “when something goes wrong in Europe, it’s “the EU’s” fault, even if governments haven’t spoken to their own civil servants”.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya also played down suggestions of problems in vaccine distribution.
“The EU has supplied member states with the number of doses that they ordered,” she told Austria’s Die Presse daily.