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EU Watchdog Radio: Episode 23

An EU love affair with Big Pharma

In this special Summer episode we bring you the true story of how the EU has been dealing with the covid-19 pandemic so far and why it seems to have a deep love affair with Big Pharma.

In two parts of this podcast several experts will explain that the European Commission – the executive branch of the EU - not only has a very eurocentric way of dealing with the pandemic, but also persists in complete secrecy on how it negotiates with powerful pharmaceutical companies.

We are now in July  2021, and the covid-19 pandemic is still raging in many parts of the world, in countries in Africa, in India, Indonesia, and so on… And while many Europeans are happy to be able to go on holidays and again enjoy certain freedoms, thanks to the covid-19 vaccines, in low and middle income countries most people can only dream of having access to such a vaccine.

“The vaccine must become a global common good”, said EU Commission President  Ursula von der Leyen in the Spring of 2020. We now know those were empty words.

The production of vaccines needs to be scaled up urgently, experts have been saying for many months. And many experts, scientists, hundreds of NGOs, top politicians, and the Pope have argued that an important hurdle for that upscaling are patents and intellectual property rights and the refusal of Big Pharma to share technology.

The truth is that the EU is de facto blocking the increase of production because it wants to protect the competitiveness of its pharmaceutical sector by protecting its patents. Furthermore, it is not being transparent on the price of medicines.    

In the first part of this episode we talk with Corporate Europe Observatory researcher Olivier Hoedeman on the total secrecy that still surrounds the EU negotiations and dealings with Big Pharma. We then listen to Corporate Europe Observatory's Kenneth Haar, who has published several reports on the bizarre ways in which the Commission and EU member states have been dealing with vaccine equity.

In the second part of this episode we talk with Dimitri Eynikel, an expert with Médecins Sans Frontières who explains why the proposals of the EU to counter or derail the progressive proposal of South Africa and India, are rather meaningless. Dimitri explains why the EU proposals to boost global production and access to vaccines and therapeutics will simply not work and might even take us backwards. In times of a pandemic the attitude of the EU is “quite shameful”. Finally we hear from investigative journalist Priti Patnaik, who is based in Geneva and is specialised in global health policy and editor of the Geneva Health Files.   

This podcast is produced by Corporate Europe Observatory and Counter Balance. Both NGOs raise awareness about the importance of good governance in the EU, by researching issues like lobbying of large and powerful industries, corporate capture of decision-making, corruption, fraud, human rights violations in areas like agri-business, biotech & chemical companies, the financial sector & public investment banks, trade, energy & climate, scientific research, and much more.

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