EU must have 'leverage' over vaccine producers who don't fulfil their contracts

EU warns will block Astrazeneca until delivery is made as new Covid-19 wave surges

She added: "Companies have to honour their contract to the European Union before they export to other regions in the world".

"Still, extreme trade disputes between the European Union and China are rather unlikely because China is now the largest trade partner for the European Union accounting for 16 percent of its total trade", it went on to say, continuing, "The disputes are harmful to both sides and are likely to lead to a stronger US dollar vis-à-vis euro and yuan".

An EU source said while the bloc had allowed 21 million vaccine doses to be exported to the United Kingdom since December 1, while none had come to the EU from Britain. As of March 23, Britain had administered almost 46 shots for every 100 people, compared with under 14 per 100 in the 27-nation bloc it left previous year, according to figures compiled by website Our World In Data.

"The European continent is actually the premier producer of vaccines for the global market".

But French President Emmanuel Macron admitted Europe carried some of the blame for the rollout failings. "We were wrong to lack ambition".

The proposed restrictions have been criticised by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said that curbs on vaccine exports would impact investments in European Union countries that enforce them.

Brussels and London have both laid claim to vaccine stocks in an AstraZeneca factory in the Netherlands.

Mr Martin told RTÉ: "First of all, I think what was clear was the consensus of the urgent need to make sure we can increase production and have consistent supply of vaccines in Quarter two".

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz criticized the sharing of shots in the European Union, saying that some countries were receiving more than their fair share.

Germany to enter strict five-day shutdown over Easter: Chancellor Angela Merkel
On Monday, the number of Covid-19 patients in German ICUs rose to 3,136, the highest in more than a month. Mrs Merkel said the plan was a "mistake", adding that she took responsibility for the U-turn.

"When member states have a lot less vaccines available to them than others, then I think this is a big issue for Europe", Kurz said.

The spread of more contagious virus variants has pushed hospitals in some European Union countries to their limit.

Host Charles Michel, president of the European Council, had hoped to hold a face-to-face summit but was forced to accept a stripped-down video conference because of travel curbs.

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday he was setting a new goal of administering 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in the US in his first 100 days in office. There was the warning that those companies are now under the spotlight. Tensions escalated after AstraZeneca refused to redirect shipments of jabs produced in the EU. "In particular, vaccine doses must wait for quality control clearance after the filling of vials is completed".

He warned that "I can tell anyone considering shutting down or disrupting the supply chain that companies can look into those measures and draw conclusions about whether it is reasonable to make future investments in countries that impose arbitrary closures".

Pfizer has warned it would be a "lose-lose situation".

The decision to seek arbitration among the ambassadors came after Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz virtually sabotaged the meeting by insisting that his country receive extra doses, even though European Commission data shows Austria faring relatively well among EU nations in terms of vaccine supplies.

Some leaders stressed that an embargo should be a last resort if negotiations for a better way of sharing vaccine production come up short, but von der Leyen adopted an uncompromising tone.

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