The European Union is crashing into a vaccine debacle

Europe is crashing into a vaccine debacle. And its leaders are now so desperate, they are threatening to bring about wartime measures and seize factories, patents, and intellectual property in order to divert vaccines that are partially produced within the European Union from leaving for the United Kingdom, which contracted for them…

Such a move has very serious consequences. If the EU tries to seize medicines that the United Kingdom contracted to buy legally, the U.K. could retaliate by putting export controls on raw materials used to produce vaccines for Europeans, slowing down the EU’s response even more…

How did Europe get here? Its failure to organize. Israel and the United States were extremely aggressive in seeking out pharmaceutical contracts. Both states privileged speed over efficiency and price. Europe had trouble negotiating at all. A handful of larger EU member states were closing in on a deal in which the European Commission took the process over — trying to use it to re-establish a unity that seemed broken at the start of the COVID crisis when European states shut their borders with each other. The EU decided its best strategy was negotiating as a massive bloc, and driving the price low. This meant signing contracts — months after the United States and United Kingdom. The contracts were complicated by the demands of 27 states being included in them, a reflection of lost trust.