European Union leaders will meet on Thursday to try to speed up the production and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in a race against the emergence of new variants that some fear could bring a third wave of the pandemic across the continent.
They will also consider how to strike the right balance between restrictions to stop the spread of infections and keeping borders open for a smooth flow of goods and services across the single market.
“The pressure on everyone is maximum now,” said an EU official ahead of the videoconference of the 27 leaders that starts at 1400 GMT. “This virus does not care about borders, so if we do not coordinate we won’t get out of this together.”
The European Commission has said supply bottlenecks that hampered the launch of vaccination programmes will soon clear, but member states want assurances that the delivery of shots will be smoother and that new vaccines can be produced quickly to cope with new variants.
The EU leaders will agree during their meeting to work on certificates of vaccination for citizens who have had an anti-COVID shot, with southern countries that depend heavily on tourism desperate to rescue this summer’s holiday season.
However, some countries such as France and Germany are wary of EU-wide certificates for those already inoculated as it could create a de facto vaccination obligation and discriminate against those who cannot or will not take a shot.