EU leaders spoke about testing, vaccines, lockdowns and MFF

Michel: We need to implement the long-term budget and the recovery package as soon as possible

The EU leaders’ corona coordination VTC on Thursday evening, convened by European Council President Charles Michel, commenced with a 30-minute discussion on the MFF and the recovery fund crisis. Three countries – Hungary, Poland and Slovenia strongly opposed tying up allocation of funds under these instruments to a wide-ranging rule of law conditionality regime.

At the joint press conference he gave with EC President Ursula von der Leyen, President Michel stressed that this financial package is essential for the economic recovery, recalling that in July, all member countries agreed by unanimity the MFF and the recovery package. We need to implement it as soon as possible, he urged.

The EUCO President also explained that on the conditionality mechanism “the vast majority of Members States agree with the compromise on the table”, reached during the last trilogue with Parliament. 

He said that some Member States have indicated that they are not able to support the majority, and added that they will continue the discussions to find “an acceptable solution to all”.

On the pandemic, the leaders zoomed in again on the current situation and thought over how to coordinate their efforts accordingly. Testing, vaccines and the lifting of restrictive measures were the main topics.

EU leaders also debated on developing a common EU-approach for the use of rapid antigen tests that are complementary to PCR tests.

We need to work towards mutual recognition of tests and their results, Michel said specifying that for rapid tests, this is based on common criteria guaranteeing their performance. National testing strategies and exchanging best practices were on the agenda as well.

Saying that we all want to celebrate the end of year holidays but safely, President Michel emphasised that lifting restrictions should be “gradual and regressive”.

EC President von der Leyen told the press that the Commission is launching the first pilot of digital passenger locator form, developed in close cooperation with the European Aviation Safety Agency. Two Member States have already signed up to start the pilot and there are another 12 that are now technically ready to join, so our goal is that we will be ready with the passenger locator form until the end of the year, von der Leyen outlined.

The Commission has adopted a Recommendation on the use of rapid antigen tests that are good if there is a high prevalence of infected people of the virus. However, von der Leyen conceded that the ‘gold standard' is the PCR, but these tests are way more expensive, need laboratory capacity, and the results come out later.

EC President also specified that it is important to have rapid antigen tests that have a sensitivity above 80%. That means, if you have 100% of infected people, the test has at least to discover more than 80% of these. She said that there are so many different on the market, and it is important to establish a EU framework for the validation that brings then mutual recognition across borders.

The Commission has now five contracts on vaccines with BioNTech, CureVac, AstraZenica, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi-GSK and is negotiating with Moderna and Novavax.

It was very good to see that all Member States have signed up to buy all the same vaccines and stay in our portfolio, EC President underscored. She accented that all vaccines in the portfolio will be properly assessed, with all data, by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), “before we authorise them”.

“For us, it is very important to be in close contact with other renowned authorities, for example when we come to the authorisation of the BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, to be in close cooperation and  contact with the FTA”.

She also stressed that EMA is in daily calls with the US authority FTA to synchronise the assessment. According to EMA, if all proceeds with no problems, the conditional marketing authorisation for the BioNTech and Moderna vaccine could happen as early as the second half of December this year.


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