What's New(s)

WHAT’S NEW(S) – 29/01/2021

WHAT’S NEW(S) – 29/01/2021

The fight over vaccines, and Portuguese elections

In the midst of the vaccination race; outrage in Europe this week when pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca refused to be transparent about production and export numbers. Rumours suggest Britain is unfairly prioritised. How has this dispute escalated in an open conflict in the media?

Besides the row over delayed vaccine deliveries, the press also paid attention to the elections in Portugal last Sunday. The turnout was low and the outcome perceived as not very surprising. Even if the far right did manage to gain ground. 

You'll find the script below :

How has this dispute escalated in a public conflict?

It all started last Friday. Politico cited an email statement of AstraZeneca spokesman, who wrote that its vaccine deliveries to the EU would be significantly lower than anticipated. In the media, there’s not yet an official confirmation about how much the delivery would be reduced, but Reuters suggests a cut of 31 million in the first quarter of 2021. The news came just one day after a videoconference of the EU heads of government, who emphasized the urgency to accelerate vaccination. EU leaders’ angry Tweets were echoed by the media. There were suspicions the company was selling the EU’s vaccines elsewhere for a lower price.

And what happened next?

Tensions further increased on Tuesday when Italian newspaper La Repubblica published an interview with AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot. Deliveries were delayed because the EU signed the contract 3 months after the UK, he suggested. He also said production for the EU “was basically two months behind” and that the contract signed with the EU urged the company to do its “best effort” and does not oblige it to meet a strict deadline. That’s not true, said the EU Commission on Wednesday. “We reject the logic of first come, first served. That may work at the neighbourhood butchers, but not in contracts”, stated Commissioner Kyriakides in a press release.

And the EU is now also threatening to publish the contract, isn’t it?

True. While recording this podcast, it is not clear yet if it will actually do so. What is clear is that both parties continue to accuse each other in the media. An EU official told AFP that AstraZeneca refused to participate in a meeting organised on Wednesday. AstraZeneca’s spokesperson denied. “Brussels-AstraZeneca row heats up” writes Spanish newspaper El Mundo. The conflict has escalated into the first real “Brexit clash” after the trade agreement was concluded at the end of December, suggests Dutch newspaper NRC.

Besides, elections were organised in Portugal on Sunday. How did the Portuguese press report on the outcomes?

Portugal held elections for the office of prime minister and the final result didn't really surprise anyone. Portuguese media reported a clear victory for Rebelo da Sousa with 60% of the vote and 60% abstention. According to Jornal de Notícias Rebelo Da Sousa launched a message of unity for the fight against the pandemic, the crisis and extremism. Competitor Público stresses that the prime minister has managed to "reinforce his power in a night of political storm", in which the far-right force Chega [Portuguese for: enough] increased its vote share with nine times compared to the parliamentary elections in 2019. André Ventura, leader of Chega, was baptised in some of the Portuguese headlines as the star of the night. Correio da Manha underlines that Rebelo won an unprecedented victory in all the counties of the country.

And what made the news in Spain this week?

Busy week as well in Spain, where health minister Salvador Illa resigned to run as a candidate for the socialist party in the Catalan elections. Newspaper ABC recalls that Illa said he would go wherever he felt most needed and many journalists do not understand how the health minister can feel most needed outside the health ministry in the midst of the vaccination process. Speaking of vaccinations, Spain is currently facing a scandal after numerous politicians decided to skip the vaccination plan in order to receive the first dose of the vaccine. These include the Minister of Health of Murcia and his wife and the head of the Spanish army.

And how about the Netherlands, where violent anti-curfew protests grabbed the headlines of all newspapers?

Indeed, images of riots, burning cars, destruction and police interventions dominated the frontpages of all newspapers in the beginning of this week. Mayors expressed their anger in the media. The mayor of Eindhoven, described the violence in his city in broadcaster NOS as “unprecedented and horrifying”. In Amsterdam alone, 190 protesters were arrested, stated Parool. The newspaper also paid attention to the initiator behind the movement, who became known for his interview for the controversial Lockdown News Network. His movement currently has over 18,000 followers on Facebook. He now says to regret that the riots escalated last weekend and has foreseen a new gathering the upcoming weekend with the title “No riots, just coffee.”

Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

Image : hakan german