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Thursday, February 25, 2021

EU Confidential #186, presented by Equinor: Vaccine export fiasco — Von der Leyen’s line — Belgian virologist

The fallout from a botched European Commission attempt to impose export controls on coronavirus vaccines tops the agenda this week. We also hear directly from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and talk to Steven Van Gucht, a top Belgian virologist advising his government on COVID-19.

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POLITICO trade reporter Jakob Hanke Vela talks us through how the Commission’s export control scheme became more controversial as it evolved, culminating in a plan to override part of the Brexit deal meant to preserve peace on the island of Ireland. The Commission was swiftly forced to drop that element after uproar in Dublin, Belfast, London and Brussels.

Jakob is joined by podcast regulars Andrew Gray, Rym Momtaz and Matthew Karnitschnig to debate the impact of the debacle on Ursula von der Leyen’s standing and on the EU’s reputation.

We hear directly from von der Leyen on the episode, speaking at a roundtable with POLITICO’s David M. Herszenhorn and other reporters.

Our special guest is virologist Steven Van Gucht, spokesperson for Belgium’s COVID-19 crisis center, which advises the federal government. In conversation with POLITICO’s Sarah Wheaton, he lays out Belgium’s timeline for vaccination, reveals his biggest fears about the virus … and addresses the all-important question of when haircuts might be allowed again.

Just one recommendation to help you through lockdown this week: our new POLITICO podcast, Westminster Insider, hosted by Jack Blanchard. We’re also keen to hear your tips — drop us a line at [email protected]!

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(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by WCT staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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