İrem UZUN -TDO- The European Union has confirmed export controls on coronavirus vaccines made in the bloc, amid a row about delivery shortfalls. "The protection and safety of our citizens is a priority and the challenges we now face left us with no choice but to act," the European Commission said.

Decision comes amid a row with vaccine maker AstraZeneca over delays in the delivery of doses to the 27 members of the bloc. Under the Brexit deal, all products should be exported from the EU to Northern Ireland without checks. But the EU believed this could be used to circumvent export controls, with NI becoming a backdoor to the wider UK. The EU invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol which allows parts of the deal to be unilaterally overridden. NI First Minister Arlene Foster described the move as "an incredible act of hostility" by the EU.

In addition, EU passed a regulation instructing its customs authorities to block all COVID-19 vaccine exports to some 100 countries worldwide, unless they receive an export authorization from national governments in the EU. Some 92 countries are exempt from the regulation. An EU official specified these include the EFTA countries of Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland, along with the Western Balkans, North African countries, and other Mediterranean countries such as Lebanon and Israel, as well as poor countries covered by the COVAX facility.  The United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and other rich countries will however not be exempt, the official added. The regulation will enter into force on Saturday.

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