At last week’s European summit, French President Emmanuel Macron was on the offensive, fully supporting the EU’s ban on vaccine exports and declaring that countries with better vaccination rates “cannot be allowed to get ahead on the backs of Europeans”. Mr Macron once again blamed pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca for not honouring its contract. Holding a chart comparing the number of doses promised and those supplied by the three vaccine makers, he said the British-Swedish company had assured “120 million doses to the EU, but are now promising to deliver 30 million doses”.
Much of the frustration is over supplies to Britain, where the inoculation campaign has progressed at a much faster pace and where AstraZeneca also has production facilities.
The UK has provided a first vaccination to more than 58.2 percent of its adult population, whereas the EU is stuck at around 14 percent.
Brussels has accused London of operating a de facto export ban to achieve its vaccine success, a claim furiously denied by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
It is evident a blame game has ensued between European leaders and the drugmaker.
One minute Mr Macron is describing the vaccine as “quasi-ineffective”, and the next, he is volunteering to have the Oxford-jab himself and backing a move to block exports outside the EU.
In a recent report, Caroline Bell, a British civil servant, compared the En Marche! leader’s behaviour to the one of the “doomed French monarchy”.
She wrote: “A year before his election, the bookshops of Paris were awash with a biography on Emmanuel Macron called ‘The banker who wanted to be king’.
“He was certainly channelling his inner Louis XIV after last week’s EU Council: ‘I can tell you that I have no mea culpa to make, no remorse, no failure to acknowledge’.
“In other words, je ne regrette rien.”
On Friday, Mr Macron said he had no reason to be sorry about refusing to impose a third national lockdown earlier this year, even though surging coronavirus infections are straining his country’s hospitals and more than 1,000 people with the virus are dying every week.
Ms Bell added in her piece for Briefings for Britain: “Like the doomed French monarchy, it appears that Macron has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
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“He is incapable of learning from his mistakes – if you don’t admit to making them, you cannot.
“And he will never forget, nor forgive, Britain’s rejection of his beloved European Project, a version of the Carolingian empire where France would call the shots.”
Mr Macron’s popularity rate fell by four percentage points from February, with only 37 percent people now saying they are satisfied with their leader.
He has faced criticism for a comparatively slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccine and his overall handling of the pandemic.
Paris and other areas in France entered a new lockdown, which some say should have been implemented earlier to put the brake on the third wave of infections.
The French President has vowed to postpone new restrictions for as long as possible and called a lockdown a last resort.
The next presidential elections are scheduled for April 2022, and current polls show right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen as Mr Macron’s number one rival.
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France also has regional elections coming up in June, although the government has warned they will only happen if the health context allows it.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Ms Le Pen’s special adviser, French MEP Philippe Olivier, explained why he believes his leader is on course to win in 2022.
Mr Olivier accused Mr Macron of plunging France into chaos in these last four years.
He said: “We are living in a major ideological confrontation.
“And this confrontation will be arbitrated during the election.
“The four years of Macron have been characterised by a total loss of control and chaos.
“Both economically speaking but also security speaking… in regards to Islamism and diplomacy.”
Mr Philippe added: “We have the impression the government is only running behind events.
“In France we have an atmosphere, not only of confinement but of abandonment.
“And people are asking to be protected and this is what Marine Le Pen incarnates.”