EU foreign ministers on a coordinated international response to Covid-19 pandemic
At today’s informal videoconference, EU ministers of foreign affairs called for continued intensive efforts to repatriate EU citizens from third countries, and for consular cooperation between Member States. They underlined the importance of the free movement of goods and the possibility of transit within the EU for EU citizens returning via airports outside their home countries. The ministers agreed that the EU must strengthen its assisting role in third countries as part of its response to the pandemic, particularly in Africa, the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership countries. They also called for more proactive provision of information to EU citizens on the EU’s role and activities undertaken to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar, who had to attend an urgent Government session, was represented by Slovenian Permanent Representative to the EU, Ambassador Iztok Jarc.
Slovenia thanked the Member States and the European Commission’s European Mechanism for Civil Protection for their cooperation in repatriating Slovenian citizens. According to the data provided by the European External Action Service, the EU has thus far – together with the arrivals planned in the coming weeks – repatriated around 600,000 EU citizens, while approximately 250,000 EU citizens remain in third countries. Slovenia is investing every effort to enable its citizens to return home from various parts of the world. With extraordinary flights arranged by the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, over 360 Slovenian and at least 300 foreign citizens have been brought home. Around 120 citizens were transferred with special coach services, and approximately 1,000 citizens were able to return home independently with the help of the diplomatic and consular network.
With regard to the EU’s role in the international response to the pandemic, Slovenia stressed that now is not the time for competition, but for enhanced European and global cooperation. Many countries in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa are affected by Covid-19 on top of other serious security, economic and humanitarian challenges they are already facing. Slovenia therefore supports the UN’s call for a global ceasefire and assistance to Iran, the epicentre of the epidemic in the Middle East. In particular, Slovenia welcomed the European Commission’s efforts to activate the assistance package for the Western Balkans. Assistance to future EU Member States in containing the Covid-19 spread should be one of the EU’s priorities, and transit of goods from the EU to the region must be ensured.
With regard to misinformation and communication with the public, Slovenia commended the cooperation between Member States and the EU institutions in detecting and properly addressing the growing amount of disinformation spread by certain global superpowers during the pandemic, and warned that disinformation and fake news concerning the EU’s role fuelling anti-European sentiment among the public will importantly shape the geopolitical future of the world. The same trend has also been noticeable in the media and digital social media in the Western Balkans. Slovenia emphasised that disinformation has to be publicly debunked with concrete activities and that the positive narrative of the EU’s assistance and cooperation must be shared not only between Member States, but also in the international arena. The European External Action Service has warned that disinformation about Covid-19 has the potential to negatively affect public healthcare systems, hamper effective communication of measures and impede their implementation intended to contain the spread of the virus. And above all, disinformation and fake news undermine public trust in the democratic institutions and their ability to fight the pandemic.
Additional information (PRESS info of the Council of the EU)