Hardly. Her team focused too much on price and too little on security of supply. They haggled pointlessly over liability should vaccines cause harm. Europe dithered in the August holidays. It was as if the Monnet-like forging of an ever-closer union was the real prize and the task of actually running vaccination a sideshow. Subsequent bickering, point-scoring and the threatened blockade of vaccine exports have done more to undermine faith in vaccination than restore the commission’s reputation. Were she still a member of a national government it is hard to see how Mrs von der Leyen could stay in her post.
Europe has also fallen short economically. Again, it has used the pandemic to make institutional progress, by creating a meaty new instrument known as the Next Generation EU fund, or NGEU. Worth 750bn euros ($880bn), this is targeted mainly at weaker countries that need it most. More than half the money is grants not loans, lessening the effect on national debt. It is also being paid for by raising debt for which the union as a whole is jointly liable. That is welcome, because it creates a mechanism which severs the link between raising money and the creditworthiness of national governments. In future crises that could protect euro-zone countries from capital flight.
As with vaccines, however, triumph at the NGEU’s creation belies its slow execution. The first money is still months from being paid out, as member states scrap with the commission over their individual programmes. By the end of next year, only a quarter of the fund will have been disbursed.