Friday, 17 September, 2021

EU promises 10m Covid-19 vaccine doses for Bangladesh

Head of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh Ambassador Rensje Teerink has said they have promised 10 million Covid-19 vaccine doses for Bangladesh, mentioning that it is not justified to say the EU is not generous enough in terms of vaccine sharing.

“We can say the EU has been the driving force behind the global response to Covid-19. Let’s not underestimate how we, in fact, want to reach out to developing countries,” she said, apparently reacting to Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen’s recent comment.

The EU envoy, however, said they are aware that it (10 million doses) is not enough and hoped that they can provide more.

Ambassador Teerink was delivering her keynote address at a virtual dialogue titled “Bangladesh-European Union Relations: Prognosis for the Future” premiered on Thursday.

Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group, hosted the dialogue as part of its ongoing Ambassador’s Lecture Series.

The opening remarks were delivered by Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan. The session was chaired by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, renowned scholar-diplomat and former Advisor on Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Caretaker Government.

Distinguished Fellow at Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, former BGMEA President and Mohammadi Group Chairperson Dr Rubana Huq, founder Chairman of Policy Research Institute (CRI) Dr Zaidi Sattar and Prof at International Relations Department of Dhaka University Imtiaz Ahmed and Honorary Advisor Emeritus, Cosmos Foundation Ambassador (Retd) Tariq A Karim comprised the panel of discussants. 

The Ambassador said they will continue to push for more vaccine doses though the issue is not in the hands of the European Union External Action Service but at the Humanitarian Aid department.

The Foreign Minister recently said they expect the EU to be more generous in terms of vaccine sharing, noting that the EU talks much about human rights but they do care little about it when it comes to vaccine sharing issues.

But the EU Ambassador finds Foreign Minister’s remarks “quite disappointing” and said more than 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines that have been committed by Team Europe (the EU, its institutions and all 27 Member States) will reach their destination countries, mainly through COVAX, by the end of this year.

However, Prof Imtiaz found the frustration from the government and people who look into the vaccine issue logical as there is nothing from the EU as they talk about it. “I understand you've got things in the pipeline but it isn’t yet materialized.”

“We hear about AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Sinopharm, and Sinovac vaccines, but nothing from the EU,” he mentioned.

The international affairs analyst said pandemic is an issue of political economy because the quicker a country can vaccinate its population, the faster it can create an image throughout the world and get into a kind of normalcy. “That’s where the EU is lacking.”

Prof Imtiaz said vaccines are very important and recalled when Bangladesh got stuck depending on a single source of AstraZeneca. “It was partly our fault as we had our one source that was AstraZeneca and that collapsed when whole India’s vaccine diplomacy collapsed.”