The European Commission is considering legal action against the Swedish-British laboratory AstraZeneca, whose deliveries of anti-Covid vaccines are significantly lower than the figures initially planned, we learned Thursday from European sources.
According to these sources, the European executive on Wednesday informed the ambassadors of the 27 member states of its intentions. The European Commission considers that the laboratory has not respected the obligations of the contract signed with the EU.
The contract with AstraZeneca being under Belgian law, such an action should be taken in Belgian courts, according to these sources.
But “all the member states do not agree” on the advisability of taking legal action, qualified a diplomatic source.
“Member states must agree to their position by the end of the week (…) It is a sensitive procedure and such action should not further diminish confidence in vaccines”, explained another diplomat at AFP.
According to a Commission spokesperson, “no decision has yet been taken”. “What matters (…) is that we can guarantee the timely delivery of a sufficient number” of AstraZeneca vaccines, explained spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker.
“That is why, together with the Member States, we are examining all the options available,” he added.
In this possible civil action, which would take several months, the Europeans “should request either the termination of the contract for non-performance, with damages, or the performance of the contract (the deliveries), which is unlikely”, believes Belgian lawyer Arnaud Jansen, who studied the contract with De Bandt law firm.
The clause in which the laboratory commits to the “best reasonable effort” in this contract (obligation of means) “should be at the heart” of the case, according to him.
AstraZeneca should argue for its part that it had other contracts to honor with the United Kingdom where the vaccine was authorized at the end of December, a month earlier than in the EU, according to the same source.
On March 19, the Commission already activated a contractual dispute settlement procedure to resolve the dispute with AstraZeneca.
In the first quarter, the laboratory only delivered 30 million doses to the EU out of the 120 million contractually promised. In the second quarter, it expects to deliver only 70 million of the 180 million initially planned.
Delays in the delivery of AstraZeneca’s vaccine have created friction between the EU and the UK, in addition to that between the Commission and the laboratory.