British pubs are due to reopen on April 12: isn’t this the shining symbol of European failures in terms of vaccination?
Jean-Louis Bourlanges: The success of the British is very relative: they count, to date, some 20,000 more dead than us! In fact, the three countries that have been most successful in their immunization policies – the UK, the US and even Israel – are the ones that completely missed the initial management of the crisis. They went for it, and they were right, because their backs were against the wall.
As for the vaccine policy of the Union, it was certainly sluggish and clumsy in the first weeks, but to speak of “failure” is very excessive. We have accumulated three weaknesses: the ravages of the spirit of precaution, a very French disease, moreover; the hostility of public opinion, on the left in particular, to laboratories deemed, not without reason, to be overly greedy, which has led us to skimp on prices instead of rushing; the inexperience, finally, of a Commission which suddenly discovered new responsibilities. In this affair, she was only the mirror of the reluctance of the Twenty-Seven.
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It remains that the slowness of a process of vaccinating 450 million Europeans with vaccines that did not exist six months ago was inevitable and depended less, in fine, on the agility of the Commission or the States than the overall availability of doses. What history will remember in this regard is the incredible speed of reaction of the world of research, business and even public administrations to find and disseminate in a few months an effective protection against a disease that we did not know a year ago. When I hear the media uproar over lost time, I wonder if it is not rather the sense of measure and even of reality that we have lost!
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has severely criticized the “unacceptable” slowness of vaccination against Covid-19 in Europe …
The WHO, which did not shine in this affair either by its independence, its effectiveness, or its foresight (remember its denials of fifteen months ago on the usefulness of masks), would do better to ‘avoid giving lessons to everyone. We are nearly 80 billion human beings and what conditions everything is the production of doses. The main delays are observed in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Let us add that its definition of Europe is primarily geographical and that it therefore includes Russia and its “near abroad”, where little is vaccinated. That said, the WHO is right to recall that victory over the pandemic will be global or not.
How do you explain these dysfunctions within the EU: is it the fault of the Commission or of the Member States?
More than twenty years ago, from their double decision to create a federal currency, the euro, and to dissolve the European Union into a disproportionate and inarticulate whole including Turkey, the member states placed the EU under the sign of contradictory injunctions: ever more common ambition and ever less political, institutional and budgetary cohesion. We are still there: paralyzed by everyone’s desire to be united and everyone’s desire to not let go. Last July, with the emergency plan, our leaders took an important step to get out of this schizophrenia, but we are still far from having the institutional and budgetary means necessary for strong and rapid decision-making at the same time. Our rulers have not read the Scripture: “Let your yes be yes, let your no be no. The rest belongs to the evil one”
When we compare the actions carried out in the UK, Israel or the US, we get the impression that the EU has not made the right choices. For example, should the European Commission be entrusted with all vaccine purchases?
Above all, let’s not make a generalizable example of Israel’s attitude: if you shoot faster than your shadow, you win the game, but if everyone did so, there would be great damage and the same number of hits. losers since the global vaccine shortage would persist. Better to cooperate and share, especially if you are French and apparently have trouble shooting as fast as others.
How to wake up a Europe considered finicky, bureaucratic and slow?
It is a simple problem to pose, difficult to solve. Everyone knows that with efficient and democratic institutions – qualified majority voting in the Council and Council / European Parliament codecision on legislative and budgetary acts – we would move forward quickly and well, and everyone also sees that our governments are arc- stuck on the institutional status quo. This contradiction puts the Union in great danger.
At the end of March, the EU adopted measures to strengthen vaccine export controls ?: is this a sign of a wake-up call on the part of Europeans?
Let us be careful not to equate a protectionist crusade with a “awakening of conscience”. Intercontinental rivalry is fierce and does not necessarily turn in our favor, but the idea that the pandemic is the end of globalization is a misnomer. The truth is that it enshrines the unity of the fate of mankind and the relevance of a global response to a problem that is anything but local. What we must have noticed, on the other hand, is the flagrant weakness – with the timid exception of the European Union – of the multilateral institutions, of the UN and of the WHO in particular, in the face of the challenges facing them. were launched. We must beware of protectionism and strengthen the multilateralism that can work. This is the meaning of the European choice.
The Russian vaccine Sputnik V also continues to divide Europeans …
What characterizes this vaccine, besides its quality, is its rarity. The Russians have made a very particular choice, that of vaccinating their population very sparingly and of making international hits by distributing their doses to clients to be seduced, such as Algeria or certain Latin American states. Here again, the model cannot be transposed: not everyone has the chance to be able to ignore the democratic requirement with impunity!
Do you think that if the European Union manages to meet its goal of vaccinating 70% of its population by the summer, the criticisms will disappear?
I do not know. I am inclined to think that in a world ruled by “Small is beautiful”, the European Union is too big and too distant not to be a structural unloved.
With the pandemic, the EU had the opportunity to show that it had the possibility of taking very concrete action in the daily lives of citizens. Didn’t she miss this date?
No, the Union may not have been particularly brilliant in its management, but we cannot say that it was not politically inspired. What other than a political choice, that is to say a choice of values, than to prefer equity and solidarity to each for himself and to the struggle of all against all? However, this is exactly what the EU has done in both economic and health terms. He still has to give himself all the institutional and budgetary means of his choice.
At the end of the crisis, around which project can the envy of Europe be reborn?
The desire to be. Which presupposes a spirit of valor and a taste for freedom. It is not certain that Europeans are not rather worked by the desire to have, which would lose them. I have a watchword for Europe: do not get the wrong auxiliary!