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Europe's week: Vaccine boost and Afghanistan decision delayed

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By Euronews
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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gestures as he addresses a media conference following a virtual meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO HQ in Brussels on Wednesday
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gestures as he addresses a media conference following a virtual meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO HQ in Brussels on Wednesday   -   Copyright  John Thys/AFP or licensors
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After weeks of intense criticism for its handling of the vaccine procurement process, the European Commission was on the front foot this week.

Brussels announced it had agreed to buy a further 300 million doses from drugmaker Moderna.

Pfizer/BioNtech, meanwhile, pledged to deliver an additional 200 million doses to the bloc.

If the European Union has enough supplies by next year, the vaccine shots will be donated to poorer countries, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

She also made it clear what she thought about Russia pushing its Sputnik V jab abroad.

"Overall, I must say, we still wonder why Russia is offering, theoretically, millions and millions of doses, while not sufficiently progressing vaccination in their own people. This is also a question I think that should be answered," she told reporters on Wednesday.

If Europe found a little respite on the vaccination front, it also had some serious relief in the area of common security.

NATO's virtual defence ministers meeting this week was the first in which the new Biden administration participated.

It comes after a bumpy few years working with Donald Trump, who lambasted European allies over their levels of defence spending.

Despite the relief, the common problems haven't disappeared.

First and foremost, Afghanistan.

"We went into Afghanistan together, NATO allies, partners and the United States after 9/11. We have made decisions on adjusting our presence together and we will also make the decision, when the time is right, to leave together," NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg explained.

The military alliance still maintains a 10,000-strong support mission in Afghanistan, after Trump sidelined the allies and struck a deal with the Taliban to pull out US troops unilaterally by May 1.

The Biden administration is now reviewing whether to stick to that deadline.

NATO defence ministers did not make a decision on the matter either this week.