February 26. 2024. 4:32

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Czech intelligence: China is a ‘medicines’ threat too


China threatens European security and stability at many levels, now including even medicines, said Director of the Czech Security Information Service Michal Koudelka, adding that politicians, in particular, should not repeat the same mistake of downplaying security alerts like in the case of Russia in the past.

According to the Czech intelligence chief, the Chinese emerging medicines threat is due to the massive production of medicines in the country.

“We cannot even imagine what would happen if China stopped producing medicines for Europe as a result of an international crisis or conflict,” Koudelka warned during a conference organised in the Czech parliament.

In March, the European Commission is expected to present the much-awaited EU Pharmaceutical Strategy, which will try to restore pharmaceutical manufacturing in Europe.

Europe is currently facing a shortage of antibiotics and other drugs, causing EU governments and patients big headaches. One of the reasons behind the crisis is the interruption of the supply of medicines from China, the Czech Chamber of Pharmacists recently said.

Especially last month, painkillers and drugs against fever (anything containing Paracetamol or Ibuprofen) and antibiotics were in short supply in pharmacies, and children’s medicines were particularly scarce.

French government spokesman Olivier Véran told EURACTIV France last month that it’s an absolute necessity for Paris to relocate pharmaceutical industries to produce drugs.

“One of the lessons of the crisis is that Europe cannot remain 95% dependent on a few Asian countries regarding access to medicines,” he said.

Antibiotics expected to return to EU capitals in a month

EURACTIV’s network looked at the current situation in EU capitals as well as examined the reasons why the EU market reached such a deadlock.

Similarly, in Vienna, Social Democrats’ health spokesperson, Philip Kucher, recently proposed establishing a national crisis stockpile of key drugs as according to him “the availability of life-saving drugs is too important to leave it up to chance or China”.

According to a European Parliament report in 2020, essential and strategic medicines should be prioritised as, at that time, 40% of drugs marketed in the EU originated in non-EU countries, while 60 – 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients were produced in China and India.

Don’t repeat the ‘Russian mistake’

“Another very serious risk related to China is the quite massive spread of disinformation on various topics, now, of course, in connection with the war in Ukraine,” Koudelka added.

Intelligence warnings about Russia have often been downplayed, Czech security services emphasised. According to the intelligence, politicians should not repeat the same mistake with China.

“Please listen to us now when we say that Chinese activities pose a risk to the Czech Republic, and we must be ready and determined to counter them effectively,” Koudelka said.

Czechia has faced a new wave of criticism coming from Beijing after the new Czech president-elect had a phone call with the Taiwanese President’s office.

Taiwan has been governed independently of China, but Beijing sees the island as a part of its territory. Leaders of many countries do not officially meet with top Taiwanese politicians in an effort not to provoke China.

Currently, all representatives of the Czech Republic, including the prime minister, the president and heads of lower and upper chambers of the Czech Parliament – are speaking one voice, insisting on continuing a relationship with Taiwan regardless of Chinese concerns.

“The emerging Czech attitude towards China is perceived substantially in the world. The country has a newly elected president and leadership who understand the threats associated with Beijing,” acknowledged Luke de Pulford, director of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, an international cross-party group of legislators working towards reform on how democratic countries approach China.

(Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz – Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)