Belgium court to rule on EU-AstraZeneca dispute within a month
A Belgian judge presiding over a legal dispute between the EU and AstraZeneca over a shortfall of COVID-19 vaccine doses to Europe said Friday she will give her ruling within a month. She set the deadline in a short hearing in her Brussels court held to ask technical questions of both sides.
The EU is seeking compensation from AstraZeneca for an alleged breach of a contract concluded last summer, in which supplies of COVID-19 vaccines that were promised to all 27 member states were not delivered in full.
But AstraZeneca has argued it is only compelled to make "best reasonable efforts" to meet deliveries.
The firm's CEO Pascal Soriot has said production was prioritized for Britain, as the vaccine was developed at Oxford University. But it subsequently reduced delivery forecast to 120 million, citing production problems.
According to the EU, AstraZeneca delivered only 30 million doses to the bloc in the first quarter of 2021, despite promising 300 million doses throughout 2021.
Figures from an EU official with knowledge of deliveries, AstraZeneca is on track to supply 70 million doses in the second quarter - falling 20 million doses short of even the reduced schedule.
The EU has called on the Belgian court to fine AstraZeneca 10 euros per dose and per day if those 20 million doses are not provided on time.
AstraZeneca has claimed that the terms and conditions of the contract were respected in full, and the company moreover has argued that it has kept the EU informed of all the developments linked to the process of producing and delivering the vaccine.
(Cover: Vials with AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are seen in Karlovac, Croatia, March 20, 2021. /CFP)