THE EU’s chief has warned of growing tensions between nations as she compared the global vaccine row to the 1960s “Cold War space race”.
Speaking to the student-led Warwick Economics Summit via video-link, the EU chief said of Covid-19 jabs: “This is not a competition between Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Americans; this is too serious.”
The commission president told today’s conference how she still remembers when “the world was still divided in two blocs”.
“The superpowers were fighting to expand or maintain their sphere of influence. Well, this world is long gone,” she added.
Von der Leyen then told how a “confrontational mindset has arrived” in the so called race for vaccines among western nations.
She continued: “Think for instance about Covid-19 vaccines. Some countries see the quest for a vaccine as a race amongst global powers, like the space race in the 1960s.
“This is an illusion. The only race is against the virus, and the virus is spreading faster than ever before.”
Speaking to Mail Online, Tory MP Bob Seely said: ‘These are sensible words and I agree, but I hope that means no more aggressive or petulant bullying tactics over the Northern Irish border or over threats to block exports.
“The Government’s brilliant vaccination policy is not designed to show up EU incompetence, it’s designed to save British lives and thank God it’s doing just that.”
But von der Leyen spoke of how the EU should work with “systemic rivals” China.
She continued to Warwick students: “Let me be very clear, although China and the European Union are cooperating when it comes to fighting climate change, although we are competing in the economic field, we are systemic rivals.
“When it comes to society, individual rights and the role of governments, Europe will continue to call out human rights abuses, to push for change.
“We believe that every human being is entitled to the same fundamental rights. The people of Hong Kong asking for democracy, the Uighurs, Europe will always speak up for them.’
It follows the bloc’s attempt to implement strict export controls in a bid to stop doses reaching the UK.
However amid uproar from England and Ireland for triggering Article 16 without consent, the EU baccktracked in its demands.
Vaccine rollouts on the Continent are said to have been slower than the UK.
Meanwhile, Brussels demanded jabs destined for Britain are diverted to top up short supplies across EU nations.
According to a report by the Times, a senior government adviser revealed a large chunk of adults will have received a Covid jab by the end of May.
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Samuel Kasumu, a senior adviser to Boris Johnson on the vaccination programme, revealed the timeline in a leaked resignation letter that he later retracted.
Speaking to the newspaper, a senior government source said the end of June was more likely for all adults to be vaccinated.
It follows an official announcement that everyone in the over-50s category will have had their first jabs by April.