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POLITICS

Russia’s Sputnik Covid vaccine may never be approved in EU, says Italian PM

Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine may never be approved by the European Union, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Friday, as he also cast doubts on the effectiveness of China's Sinovac jab.

Russia's Sputnik Covid vaccine may never be approved in EU, says Italian PM
Mario Draghi arrives on the second day of an EU summit in Brussels on June 25th. Photo: Aris Oikonomou/POOL AFP

“Sputnik… has not yet managed to obtain and perhaps will never have the approval of EMA (the European Medicines Agency),” Draghi said in Brussels.

In his comments, Draghi said there was a need for a “strengthening and maybe also a reform of EMA” to avoid a repeat of recent “considerable confusion” on vaccines.

He referred to a “certain discrepancy in pronouncements” over the safety of Covid-19 vaccines between EMA and national medicine bodies.

READ ALSO: Italy approves ‘mix and match’ vaccinations for under-60s as regions issue varying rules on AstraZeneca

The EMA had been expected to conclude its review of the Russian jab and issue a decision in May or June. However, approval was delayed because the makers missed a June 10 deadline to submit data, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, “the Chinese vaccine, which never applied (for EMA approval) has shown to be inadequate, look at the experience in Chile,” he added.

Chile has relied heavily on the Chinese Sinovac jab for its immunisation campaign, but health authorities in the country have questioned how effective it is against new virus strains, and are also now considering adding a third dose to boost protection.

READ ALSO: San Marino offers tourists Sputnik vaccine for €50

Draghi was speaking at the end of a two-day European Union summit, in which he said leaders had a general discussion on the state of play of coronavirus.

“The pandemic is not over, we are not yet out of it,” the Italian leader said, pointing to the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant in Britain.

In Italy too, outbreaks of the more transmissible variant have been detected, the country’s health authorities confirmed on Friday.

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ITALIAN POLITICS

Will Italy’s Five Star Movement split throw the government into crisis?

After the largest party in Italy's coalition government imploded over the country's response to the Ukraine war, Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Wednesday called for unity. Is another political crisis on the horizon?

Will Italy's Five Star Movement split throw the government into crisis?

Draghi has taken a firm, pro-EU line on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: sending weapons to Kyiv, backing sanctions on Moscow despite Italy’s heavy reliance on Russian gas, and supporting Ukraine’s hopes of joining the European Union.

But there have been rumblings of unease within his coalition government, which burst into the open on Tuesday with a split in parliament’s biggest party, the Five Star Movement.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced he was leaving the party amid disagreements over how Italy should respond to the Ukraine war.

An estimated 60 lawmakers are following him into his breakaway group, named “Together for the Future” – just over a quarter of Five Star’s MPs.

READ ALSO: Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

The move risks upsetting the fragile balance of power in Draghi’s coalition government, a year before general elections are due and at a difficult time for Italians battling skyrocketing inflation.

A vote on Wednesday suggested parliament still overwhelmingly backs the premier, with the lower Chamber of Deputies approving by 410 to 29 a resolution supporting the Ukraine policy.

The Senate similarly approved it on Tuesday.

Luigi Di Maio (R) applauds after Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) addresses the Italian Senate on June 21st, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

“Unity is essential in these moments because the decisions that must be taken are very difficult,” Draghi said before Wednesday’s result, which came one day before an EU summit in Brussels begins.

In an uncharacteristically combative address to deputies, Draghi accused those who disagreed with his policy of effectively calling on Kyiv to surrender.

“There is a fundamental difference between two points of view. One is mine – Ukraine must defend itself, and sanctions and the sending of weapons serve this goal,” Draghi said to applause.

“The other point of view is different. Ukraine must not defend itself, we shouldn’t do sanctions, we shouldn’t send armaments, Russia is too strong, why should we take her on, let Ukraine submit.”

Di Maio had made a similar attack on members of his own party at the weekend, paving the way for Tuesday’s defection.

Five Star leader Giuseppe Conte, the country’s former premier, has argued that Italy should focus on a diplomatic solution, warning against getting involved in an escalating arms race.

Conte and Di Maio have been at odds since long before the war, however.

Five Star leader Giuseppe Conte stressed that his party still backed the coalition, saying: “Support for Draghi is not up for discussion.”

Nevertheless, some commentators believe Draghi’s coalition government – involving all main political parties except the far-right Brothers of Italy – will start to splinter ahead of 2023 elections.

The Five Star split is likely to weigh on “the entire political system, starting with Draghi, who is now more shaky than before,” wrote La Stampa columnist Marcello Sorgi.

The defections in Five Star leave the anti-immigration League of Matteo Salvini as the biggest party in parliament, but it too is struggling with waning public support.

Media reports this week suggest this could work in Giorgia Meloni’s favour in the next election – the far-right Brothers of Italy leader is now being touted as potentially becoming the country’s first female prime minister, as her party remains the only one in opposition to Draghi’s coalition.

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