Brussels Edition: Vaccine diplomacy

Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg’s daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union.

EU leaders will brag next week that they are exporting a bigger share of vaccines than anyone else, certainly more than the U.S. or any other developed nation. “The EU is the largest exporter of COVID-19 vaccines to the world and will continue its efforts to increase global vaccine production capacities in order to meet global needs,” the draft of their summit statement says. Yet even though more than 200 million doses made in the EU have been cleared for shipment abroad, China seems to be winning the vaccine-diplomacy battle. In addition to its virus-fighting success, early exports of rapidly developed shots have provided Beijing with a potent calling card in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, our dispatch shows. Leaders meeting in Brussels on Monday may wonder what went so wrong on the communication front that they managed to supply the world with the most advanced vaccines, while others won the praise — and the influence that comes with it.

What’s Happening
Virus Update |
Europe is waking up from the pandemic with cafes in Paris, gelato vendors in Rome and beer gardens in Bavaria reopening, a major test for the region’s recovery in health and economic terms. Here’s our guide to the new normal across the continent, including where and how you can dine out or have a much-needed drink.

Vaccine Passports |  Negotiations between the European Parliament and EU governments over the final details of rules which will allow quarantine-free travel for those inoculated will continue on Thursday after last night’s talks failed to bridge the gap. Here’s what they’re arguing about. In more cheerful news, the Parliament gave final approval to a 17.5 billion-euro fund that will help the most coal-dependent European regions shift to a climate-neutral economy.

Migrant Influx | Spain is sending troops and more police to one of its North African enclaves after a record number of mostly Moroccan migrants entered the territory. As soldiers are being deployed, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described the arrival of close to 7,000 people, including hundreds of children, as “a crisis for Spain and for Europe,” and said he’d respond with “firmness.”

Sustainable Fuel | The world’s biggest maker of renewable diesel says it’s creating a new market for low-carbon jet fuel as passengers slowly return to the skies. We spoke to the CEO of the Finnish company that wants to refuel your flights with the oil that cooked your fries.

In Case You Missed It
Business Taxation |
The European Commission presented plans for a new corporate taxation framework that would — eventually — go further than a global deal currently under negotiation to change rules on how much and where multinational firms should pay levies. Here’s what the EU’s executive arm is thinking.

Finnish Ratification | Finland’s parliament approved the EU’s recovery fund, removing one obstacle to unleashing up to 800 billion euros in stimulus across the bloc. All EU member states must ratify the decision allowing the Commission to raise debt to finance the package, and there’s a few of them still left to go.

Disappointing Sale | Meanwhile, the Commission’s final bond sales for its regional jobs program, known as SURE, ended with a whimper, a worrying sign for its landmark borrowing spree that’s due to start in the second half. Investor appetite for the EU bonds was nowhere near the levels seen last time around. 

Cancel Culture | Elisabeth Moreno, a Black woman in charge of diversity in President Emmanuel Macron’s government, slammed “cancel culture” in a strong rebuke of U.S.-style wokeness. While the term “woke” has French roots, and was quickly adopted by some in France, the notion is being criticized as a U.S. import that leads to censorship and intolerance in the name of political correctness.

Chart of the Day

Economies in the EU’s east defied downbeat forecasts at the start of 2021, surprising analysts who appeared to overstate the knock-on effect of pandemic restrictions. Preliminary data released Tuesday showed first-quarter gross domestic product in Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria shrinking by much less than predicted on an annual basis. Read why.

Today’s Agenda
All times CET.

  • 9 a.m. EU Parliament debates proposal for waiver on intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines
  • 11 a.m. The EU’s lower court rules in a challenge by Lufthansa against the EU’s approval of German public support for Frankfurt Hahn airport
  • 11 a.m. The EU’s lower court rules on Ryanair’s challenge of the EU’s approval of Covid-related aid for Portugal’s TAP airline
Nikos Chrysoloras