EU to hit summer vaccination target, Donohoe says

Income supports must be maintained to aid recovery, Minister for Finance says

 

The European Union will vaccinate most of its population by the summer, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said on Thursday.

“We will get there and we will deliver that,” Mr Donohoe told an International Monetary Fund (IMF) event, referring to the bloc’s target of vaccinating 70 per cent of its citizens by the summer.

The Minister acknowledged that the EU had difficulties with the programme at the outset, as it had no experience of centralising a vaccination scheme on this scale.

“As we move into next year you will see the EU being able to supply billions of vaccines,” Mr Donohoe said. “We are making progress and that’s a reason for optimism.”

The Minister, president of the Eurogroup – the EU states that use the euro currency – said that a combination of the union’s pandemic supports and its vaccination programmes would see its economy move ahead next year.

Mr Donohoe confirmed that Covid-19 restrictions’ impact had been hugely unequal across the EU.

Pandemic-related unemployment is 0.5 per cent in the EU but is 6 per cent for young workers and 9 per cent for younger women. “We have to protect the incomes of the most vulnerable,” he said.

Mr Donohoe warned that as the EU pursued its transition to green and digital business, the impact on jobs would not necessarily be automatic.

He singled out the fact that pandemics have always amplified inequalities in the past as a key risk.

Along with vaccination programmes, organisations including the EU would have to maintain income supports to aid the recovery, he said.

Mr Donohoe warned that this would have to focus particularly on younger people “who have had to pay a heavy price for the restrictions that we have had to put in place”.

Political challenges

The Minister acknowledged that the EU was facing key political challenges, with a federal election in Germany this year and France’s presidential poll in 2022.

However, Mr Donohoe argued recent changes in the Netherlands and Italy gave cause for optimism.

Dutch voters returned premier Mark Rutte and his centre-right VVD party to power for a fourth term, while in Italy, prime minister Mario Draghi looks set to form a government.

Both were “very committed to the European project and very committed to strengthening it”, he said.

He also noted that the European Commission had provided economic supports that were unimaginable a year ago.

Mr Donohoe singled out the commission’s Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency programme.

This has backed schemes in 18 EU countries benefitting about 21.5 million employees and five million self-employed.