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EU leaders debate ways to step up vaccination

by Salami Azeez

European Union (EU) leaders are to search for pandemic strategy solutions on Thursday under immense pressure due to COVID-19 vaccine shortages and a fresh spike in cases in several states.

“Our top priority is to speed up vaccination campaigns,” European Council president, Charles Michel, wrote to the 27 heads of government ahead of the video summit.

The bloc’s inoculation drive is advancing much slower than in Britain or the U.S.

Meanwhile, France, the Netherlands and Belgium were among those trying to stop a potential third wave in its tracks by re-tightening or prolonging containment measures.

The European Commission beefed up the bloc’s vaccine export register system on Wednesday, expanding the criteria according to which outward shipments of COVID-19 jabs can be halted.

The move triggered warnings from London, a major recipient of EU-produced jabs. Member states including Belgium and Ireland have voiced concern about the potential backlash to blockades.

Having the tool on the table as a way to help the EU get its share of jabs was one thing, but actually using it was another, said several EU diplomatic sources ahead of the summit.

EU leaders are also to discuss so-called vaccine passports or green certificates that should facilitate safe travel within the bloc this summer.

Many open questions remain, such as when to introduce them, how to obtain one and what privileges they should confer.

Relations with Turkey and Russia are also on the agenda.

Dealings with Ankara have improved of late, but the EU-Russia relationship has deteriorated.

No immediate changes in diplomatic strategy were anticipated in either case.

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