First round for the Commission: the vials by September, penalty 10 euros for each undelivered antidote
BRUSSELS. Europe-AstraZeneca, the tug-of-war over undelivered doses now leads to open war. The French-speaking court of first instance in Brussels ordered the pharmaceutical company to make available the ampoules covered by the contract signed with the European Union, under penalty of 10 euros for each undelivered ampoule.
The Belgian justice body also sets a binding timetable for the 50 million doses subject to delays that violate the commitments made with the governments of the 27, as negotiated by the European Commission on their behalf. The first 15 million vials must arrive by 9 am on 26 July; another 20 million vials must be sent by 23 August; the last 15 million doses must arrive by 27 September.
The decision taken by the Brussels court is welcomed by the president of the EU executive. “This decision confirms the position of the Commission: AstraZeneca has not respected the commitments undertaken in the contract”, commented Ursula von der Leyen. “It’s nice to see an independent judge confirming this.”
Von der Leyen’s satisfaction is explained by the criticisms she and her team had been subjected to when it emerged that the pharmaceutical company would not keep its commitments with the EU.
The von der Leyen team signed a first contract for 300 million doses with the British-Swedish multinational in August 2020, with an option to purchase an additional 100 million doses to be distributed among EU Member States according to their respective populations. The Commission was asking for the delivery of 120 million doses by the end of June, and all 300 million doses covered by the agreement by the end of September, but the court war does not seem to smile on the von der Leyen team.
In reverse. Because if Europe is right in the beginning, in practice it changes little, and Astrazeneca makes this clear in the note in which he reacts to the pronouncement of the Brussels judges. As a result of the request of the Brussels judges, it is specified that Pharmaceutical is ordered to deliver 80.2 million doses in total by the end of September. At the end of the first quarter, the company delivered 30 million doses, and the request for 50 million from Belgium is added to the figure at the end of March. But taking not the data at the end of March, but the updated one, “to date the Company has supplied more than 70 million doses to the European Union and will substantially exceed 80.2 million doses by the end of June 2021”, continues AstraZeneca . Result: the invitation of the Brussels judges will already be respected at the end of June.
So in the end the EU will not have everything signed by the end of September as it claimed, but just over a quarter of the amount paid (30 million doses at the end of March, plus the 50 million imposed by the Belgian justice), nor will the fines for BigPharma, which confirms itself as stronger than the Union, highlighting the weakness of the Brussels bargaining, which achieves a victory in principle, but which will have to continue to wait before having the entire batch of vaccines.
Not only. AstraZeneca would like to underline that “all other measures requested by the European Commission have been rejected, and in particular the Court found that the European Commission has no exclusivity or priority right over all the other contracting parties”.