EU solidarity crumbles: Bavaria sidelines Merkel and Brussels to sign Russian vaccine deal

Sputnik V vaccine financier discusses support from EU leaders

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Markus Söder, the state’s minister-president, took decisive action as criticism of Brussels’ handling of the vaccine rollout continues. On Wednesday he signed a preliminary contract for the delivery of Sputnik V jabs, which will kick in once the Russian-made shot is approved by the European drug regulator.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is in the process of examining the application for approval of the Sputnik jab.

Following a meeting of his cabinet, Mr Söder said batches of the vaccine would arrive for distribution immediately after the green light is given.

As Europe’s healthcare systems threaten to buckle under the third Covid wave, Bavaria has reported a rise in infections.

As a result, the state government has decided to push back the easing of restrictions by at least two weeks.

Mr Söder said he expected millions of Sputnik shots to pour into Bavaria this summer to help boost the state’s rollout.

He explained: “If Sputnik is approved in Europe, the Free State of Bavaria will get additional vaccine doses through this company – I think this will be 2.5 million vaccine doses – probably in July to increase the additional vaccination capacities in Bavaria.”

Mr Söder is the leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

If given the go-ahead, the Sputnik vaccines will be produced at a plant in the Bavarian town of Illertissen.

Mr Söder’s decision to carve out his own path away without Mrs Merkel by his side drew criticism from some German politicians.

He was accused of making an “egotistical” move and some said he shunned his responsibility to show solidarity with all Germans in the midst of the crisis.

The announcement caused a sensation nationwide – but also caused criticism.

Dietmar Bartsch, the head of the left-wing parliamentary group in the Bundestag, said for “Ego[tistical]-Söder” this was about “Bayern first!”

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He added: “In a crisis, solidarity is needed first and not limitless egoism for one’s own career.”

He stressed federal states should not be tempted to take part in a race against each other for vaccines.

The signing of the contract comes a week after Mrs Merkel was joined by France’s Emmanuel Macron for a video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the Sputnik jab.

The Kremlin said the trio chatted about prospects for the registration of the vaccine in the EU.

They also touched on the possibility of shipments and joint production in EU member states.

Steffan Seibert, Mrs Merkel’s spokesman, had earlier said that the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine would be “worth considering for Germany” if the EMA green-lighted it.

On Thursday the Chancellor backed a short, tough lockdown in Germany to curb the spread of the coronavirus as infection rate, a spokeswoman for the government said.

Germany is struggling to tackle a third wave of the pandemic and several regional leaders have called for a short, sharp lockdown while the country tries to vaccinate more people.

Deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said: “Every call for a short, uniform lockdown is right.

“We need a stable incidence below 100.”

She was referring to the number of cases over seven days per 100,000 inhabitants.

It is currently 110.1, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

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