BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission has proposed extending the period of its scheme for monitoring and potentially limiting exports of COVID-19 vaccines from the bloc, a European Commission spokesperson told Reuters on Monday.
If not prolonged, the scheme would expire this week. It is unclear whether the 27 EU states will support the proposal, which requires a qualified majority to be adopted.
“Discussions are ongoing with member states, so we cannot comment further,” the spokesperson said. If extended, the scheme would remain in place until the end of the year.
The scheme has already been extended twice after its initial launch at the end of January, despite criticism from some smaller states that feared it was not necessary and could damage the bloc’s competitiveness.
Under EU rules, the Commission could appeal against a possible rejection by EU governments.
The EU Commission established the mechanism amid the bloc’s vaccine supply crisis and in a bid to curb exports by pharmaceutical companies deemed not to be respecting their commitments with the EU.
The mechanism has, however, allowed the export of hundreds of millions of shots made in the EU towards dozens of countries around the world.
It has been formally used to block only one shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses to Australia in March, after the Anglo-Swedish firm cut supplies to the EU.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Louise Heavens)