Switzerland asks EU for exception to vaccine export rules

Coveted stuff: a jab of Covid-19 vaccine, in this case from Pfizer/BioNTech. Keystone / Klaus-dietmar Gabbert

As of this week, Switzerland can no longer import Covid vaccines from the European Union (EU) without a special license. Officials in Bern have asked to be granted an exception to the stricter conditions.

This content was published on April 4, 2021 - 17:06

According to the SonntagsBlick newspaper, at the end of March the EU removed Switzerland – along with 16 other countries – from a list of states not subject to the stricter export controls.

The newspaper says the decision in Brussels was largely down to tensions about vaccine supplies that have been heightened by the fact that AstraZeneca has been slow in getting supplies to Europe, while it has been “generous” in delivering to the UK.

The export rules, while not foreseeing full-on bans, state that controls can be put in place for various reasons: for example, if the country in question imports vaccines but doesn’t export or reciprocate; or if the country has a much higher vaccination rate than the EU.

For Switzerland, the SonntagsBlick writes, this could mean a difficult situation whereby the more quickly the country administers jabs, the more difficult it might be to obtain new supplies via Europe.

In response to the decision, Livia Leu, the Swiss diplomat overseeing relations with Brussels, discussed the issue with the EU’s ambassador in Bern, Petros Mavromichalis.

In a discussion confirmed on Sunday by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Switzerland requested that it once again be placed on the list of countries not subject to the export license rules. SECO based its request on the highly integrated and co-dependent nature of the Swiss and European medical supply and distribution chains, it said.

Although the outcome of the request is not yet clear, SECO did confirm to the Keystone-SDA news agency that “the measures [of the EU] did not specifically target Switzerland”.

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