European regional leaders attempt Sputnik V purchases – POLITICO



The head of the Spanish region of Madrid attempted to obtain doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine earlier this year in a further sign of the willingness of regional leaders across Europe to break away from the strategies set out by their national governments.

According to Spanish daily ABC, the president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, asked regional health counselor Enrique Ruiz-Escudero to engage in several rounds of talks with Sputnik V distributors, a move not in line with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s vaccine rollout plan.

Ayuso, a conservative politician who has routinely attacked Sánchez’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, has long accused the central government of failing to provide the capital region with the vaccine doses it needs.

During a press conference on Tuesday, she defended her region’s parallel negotiations, insisting that it was her government’s obligation to seek out alternatives.

“It wouldn’t be the first, nor the fifth, nor the 10th time that Madrid has been ahead of the Spanish government in terms of seeking out all possible ways to fight against the virus,” said Ayuso, who has made her opposition to Sánchez a central pillar of her campaign ahead of May 4 elections in the capital region.

The split between the Madrid region and the Spanish government mirrors similar splits at the international level in Europe, which have seen the likes of Hungary deviate from the EU’s common vaccine strategy to strike deals with Russia.

Madrid health counselor Ruiz-Escudero said that his region had followed the example set by other EU countries that had sought out the Sputnik V vaccine, adding that while negotiations continued to progress, Madrid would wait for approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which has not yet signed off on the Russian-made vaccine.

Ruiz-Escudero criticized the “slowness” of the EMA and said it was difficult to understand given the urgency of the pandemic.

At a press conference held after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers, Prime Minister Sánchez called for “loyalty” and defended the EU’s strategy of purchasing vaccines collectively.

“The important thing is to act with rigor, seriousness and solidarity,” he said, adding that Spain would vaccinate 70 percent of its population before August. “Unity is essential in the fight against the pandemic, as well as in our supply of doses.”

Ayuso’s move in Madrid follows something similar done by Vincenzo De Luca, the regional governor of the Southern Italian region of Campania, who last month signed a deal for a reported half a million doses of the Russian-made vaccine, contingent on EMA approval.

De Luca, a member of the center-left Democratic Party backing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government, hasn’t shied away from criticizing the government in Rome over its response to the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, in February, Luca Zaia, governor of Italy’s Veneto region and member of the right-wing League party, attempted to carry out his own independent vaccine purchase.

While that move didn’t go through, following De Luca’s announcement, Zaia said he would go ahead with his own region’s Sputnik deal if the EMA approved the shot.





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