In terms of health diplomacy, the European Union is more in the background than other powers like China and Russia. But Brussels has not said its last word.
One year of pandemic … And of health diplomacy. Over the past twelve months, the delivery of medical equipment has become a tool of influence on the international scene. And in the midst of the vaccine race, Russia and China do not hesitate to use their home remedy as a diplomatic weapon.
Taking advantage of Europe’s delay, Beijing is advancing its pawns to Europe. China has already concluded contracts with around 20 countries, including Turkey, Brazil, Serbia and Hungary. The superpower pursues clear objectives:
“First, China wants to improve its image, which has been tarnished by the pandemic. And second, it wants to cement its links with strategically important countries as well as those affected by the New Silk Road project.“, explains Yanzhong Huang, expert on global health issues for the think tank Council on foreign relations.
“Third, it wants to grow the market share of its vaccines, hoping to use this vaccine diplomacy to help achieve other economic goals.“, continues the researcher.
For its part, Russia has already signed millions of orders with large countries such as India and Argentina. A boon for its international influence.
“The idea is to promote Russian science and Russia as an alternative technological factory. Russia is seen as an oil producer, although it has very good scientists“, according to Jacob Kirkegaard, of the American public policy institution German Marshall Fund.
For having, the latter considers that he “This is largely a decoy, especially with regard to Russia’s ability to actually supply large quantities of its new Sputnik V vaccine. I strongly doubt it, given the deliveries of Sputnik V to Russia, which are very limited“, concludes Jacob Kirkegaard.
Brussels does not give up
For some, Brussels is not doing enough to counter this Russian and Chinese vaccine diplomacy. But should the EU, which is struggling to manage supplies for its population, deliver doses of vaccine to its neighbors, such as Ukraine? Bulgarian MEP Andrei Kovachev considers this essential.
“We absolutely have to support Ukraine, and this is only the beginning of that support. Our contribution, through the EU budget and the Member States amounts to 850 million euros. And this is only the beginning of the support we will give to all our neighbors, including the Western Balkans.“, assures the elected member of the EPP.
The EU also hopes to help some poorer countries through the WHO COVAX mechanism, which aims to deliver 2 billion doses this year.
But until Brussels resolves its own supply chain issues, Russia and China will continue to benefit from the ignition delay on the old continent.