I thank the honourable Members of Dáil Éireann and the honourable Members of Seanad Éireann for giving me the opportunity to appear before the committee today.
I regret I cannot be before the committee in person but next time, hopefully soon, I will be delighted to come to see members. This is a timely exchange; it is important to do it ahead of the industrial strategy update, which the Commission will present next week. This will support the triple transition to make our industry more green, digital and resilient.
I will not go into detail now, although I will address one area that clearly illustrates the importance of resilience, which the Chairman mentioned, namely, our vaccine production strategy. Today we face an historical challenge, that of vaccinating Europe and the world in record time. We overcame the scientific challenge by developing vaccines. That was done mainly thanks to European research, as four of the vaccines we are using or will use have been developed in Europe. The challenge is now an industrial one, namely, to produce them. No country can do this alone. Therefore, I am convinced that European solidarity is the only way to avoid vaccine nationalism. The industrial ramp-up is today a reality. Since January, Europe's vaccine production capacity has doubled every other month. By the second quarter, we expect 410 million doses to be delivered to member states. This included the 50 million additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which we agreed to front-load from quarter 4 to quarter 2. For Ireland, for example, this means an additional 400,000 doses that were not planned. Ireland will receive between 4.5 million and 5 million doses in quarter 2. This is of course a tremendous jump over what it was in the first quarter; indeed it is three times more. This is also, by the way, the case for all of the EU. In addition, our factories are producing for the world. We are the only continent to do this. We can be proud of that but it is in our interest. We are of course producing for the UK; 70% of its vaccines are coming from Europe. Men and women are working day and night, seven days a week, to produce enough vaccines for the British, for our partners, but also for Covax. The reason for this is clear: it is, as I said, in our collective interest to avoid the development of variants elsewhere. This task is today on the shoulders of the EU. However, we are doing this without any naivete thanks to our export transparency scheme. This also helps me to better monitor our production.
The challenge now for member states is to scale up vaccination campaigns and to fight vaccine hesitancy. To conclude on this point, I am confident that by mid-July we will have produced enough doses to fully vaccinate 70% of the adult population, which is something extremely important. By the end of the year we will have an annual production capacity of more than 3 billion doses. Again, this is extremely important and we will need these to be prepared for the variants and new evolutions of the pandemic, if necessary. The work does not stop here. From this perspective, we need to prepare ourselves. This is why we have put in place the so-called “Hera Incubator”. The Commission is negotiating with Pfizer-BioNTech for 1.8 billion supplementary doses until 2023 as these may be needed for variants. Negotiations with other manufacturers may come on top of that.
I would like to end my introduction with a few words on digital matters, which are of particular relevance to Ireland. The Commission recently presented the Digital Decade, which will serve as a compass to guide us in four key areas: skills, infrastructure, business and public services. We are acting on two dimensions, namely, the modernisation of our regulatory framework, and the support to digital sovereignty.
On the regulatory framework, the Commission has proposed several major Bills on data and platforms. I will just mention the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. While the Digital Services Act provides modernised routes to combat the distribution and sale of illegal content and goods online, the Digital Markets Act targets gatekeepers to prevent them creating unfair conditions and competitions within the ecosystem in which they operate. The objective is very clear. The platforms must adapt to EU rules and not the reverse. Europe is, and will remain, open to anyone who is willing to play by the rules. We are creating a digital space that ensures equal and better protection for consumers across the Union while allowing individual companies to scale up and grow in the Single Market. For this we also need strong co-operation between national regulators to avoid the current fragmentation.
The second dimension is about reducing Europe’s strategic dependencies in key infrastructure and technologies. We are working on four fronts: connectivity with 5G and 6G but also a space-based connectivity project to allow all of Europe to have access to broadband Internet; microelectronics, where we want to be able to design and produce the most powerful and resource-efficient processors in the EU; cloud technology, where we must develop European alternatives to hyper-scalers to store and process the most sensitive data; and finally high-performance computers, where our ambition is to acquire for Europe three supercomputers that are in the top 5 globally. This is about preparing Europe for the industrial data wave ahead of us.
I do not want to be too long. Whether it is on vaccine production or on digital transformation, we must aim to make Europe stronger. Through the European recovery plan, the ground-breaking and largest stimulus package ever, we now have the means for this ambition, but member states must take this opportunity. I look forward to our discussion.