Central European leaders call for faster vaccine deliveries
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Central European leaders on Wednesday pressed for faster COVID-19 vaccine deliveries from every reliable manufacturer to speed up the inoculations they say are the way to defeat the pandemic and revive Europe’s economic recovery.
The leaders of Hungary, Slovakia and Poland have said they support buying vaccines from manufacturers regardless of “geopolitics” provided they are safe and effective. Hungary is the first and to date the only member state of the European Union to administer the Russian vaccine Sputnik V without waiting for approval from the European Medicines Agency.
“There is no eastern or western vaccine, there is only a good or a bad vaccine,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at a press conference in Krakow, Poland. “It’s not good to be too political about public health security.”
The Hungarian leader said that the quick purchase of safe and effective vaccines now outweighs the cost.
Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matowic and Pole Mateusz Morawiecki supported Orban. The EU has not received the full expected amounts of the roughly 2 billion doses of vaccine for which it has signed agreements with Western drugmakers.
The leaders were speaking at a meeting marking the 30th anniversary of the Visegrad Group, an informal body for political and economic cooperation between Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Hosted by Morawiecki, it brought together Orban, Matovic and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
European Council President Charles Michel, who attended the celebrations, said EU leaders would discuss ways to increase vaccine production and speed up inoculations next week.
The EU said on Wednesday it had agreed to purchase an additional 300 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine and was injecting nearly a quarter of a billion euros (nearly $ 300 million) into efforts to counter the threat variants of the coronavirus that are spreading across the continent.
The development came in addition to the announcement by Pfizer and BioNTech that they had signed an agreement to deliver 200 million additional doses of their vaccine to the block.
Michel welcomed the development and role of the V4 group in the EU, but stressed that it must be “based on the principles of democracy”.
The remarks appeared to be directed against Hungary and Poland, seen as recalcitrant members of the EU, often criticized for their perceived political interference in areas such as justice and media freedom.
Orban said earlier Wednesday that the role of central European nations is to help protect the EU from external threats but also against the bloc’s own empire-building “tendencies”, while protecting their own independence. .
The leaders also signed a declaration of cooperation in the cyber sector.
The V4 was founded in February 1991 from a declaration of cooperation that then-presidents Lech Walesa of Poland, Vaclav Havel of ex-Czechoslovakia and Jozsef Antall of Hungary signed in Visegrad, Hungary. These countries joined the EU in 2004.
Poland currently holds the rotating presidency of the group for 12 months and will hand it over to Hungary on July 1.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Polish Morawiecki and Hungarian Orban held bilateral talks and attended a ceremony at Wawel Castle for the handing over of armor made for 16th century King Sigismund II Augustus which had been kept in a museum in Budapest.