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EU leaders urge US to end COVID-19 vaccine export limits amid patents controversy

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European Council President Charles Michel speaks during the closing ceremony of the EU summit at the Alfandega do Porto Congress Center in Porto, Portugal, Friday, May 7, 2021
European Council President Charles Michel speaks during the closing ceremony of the EU summit at the Alfandega do Porto Congress Center in Porto, Portugal, Friday, May 7, 2021   -   Copyright  Francisco Seco/AP
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European Union leaders cranked up their criticism of the US call to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents Saturday, arguing the move would bring no short or midterm relief.

They instead urged Washington to lift export restrictions if it wants to have a global impact on the pandemic.

“We don't think, in the short term, that it's the magic bullet,” said EU Council President Charles Michel on the second day of an EU summit in Portugal.

French President Emmanuel Macron insisted that giving any priority to discussing intellectual property rights now, “is a false debate.”

Instead, they joined previous EU calls for US President Joe Biden to start boosting US vaccine exports to contain the global COVID-19 crisis, insisting it was the most urgent need.

“We encourage all the partners to facilitate the export of (vaccine) doses," said Michel.

"I’m very clearly urging the US to put an end to the ban on exports of vaccines and on components of vaccines that are preventing them being produced," Macron said. Hundreds of components can go into a vaccine.

The German Chancellor echoed his comments. "Now that a further part of the American population has been vaccinated, I hope that we can come to a free exchange of components and an opening of the market for vaccines," Angela Merkel said, adding the EU has exported a big chunk of shots made in the bloc and that should "be the rule".

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said President Joe Biden's idea was "insufficient. It should be more ambitious.”

The US has discouraged exports of American-made vaccines so it can inoculate its own population first, while the EU has become the world's leading provider.

As many doses have been sent outside the 27-nation bloc as are kept for its 446 million inhabitants, even in the face of criticism of European governments for the slow pace of vaccinations.

Macron hit back at the criticisms, arguing that "the Anglo-Saxons block many of these ingredients" needed to make vaccines, referring to Washington and London.

“Today, 100% of vaccines produced in the United States of America are for the American market.”

Von der Leyen said this week that the EU had distributed about 200 million doses within the bloc while about the same amount had been exported abroad.

“Around 50% of what is being produced in Europe is exported to almost 90 countries,” von der Leyen said, and called on Biden and other vaccine-producing regions or nations to step up their effort.

“We are the most generous in the world of developed nations. Europe should be proud of itself,” Macron said.