State Secretary Dovžan at the meeting of European Affairs ministers on COVID-19 coordination
Today, State Secretary Gašper Dovžan took part in an informal video conference of the General Affairs Council. The ministers responsible for European affairs discussed the preparations for the virtual meeting of the European Council to be held on 21 January, exchanged views and information on the current epidemiological situation in the EU and the vaccine roll-out, and took stock of the vaccination process.
State Secretary Dovžan endorsed the Commission’s decision to order additional stocks of vaccines and appealed for their distribution to be expedited. He expressed his support for transparency and the efforts aimed at establishing common and coordinated communication to EU citizens, advocating for mutual recognition of the rapid antigen tests. He also encouraged the idea of European vaccination certificates, which could consolidate the four European freedoms, conforming to the principles of EU law. In addition, he called for a coordinated approach to the preparation of medium-term strategies for lifting restrictive measures.
During the discussion, the State Secretary expressed Slovenia’s willingness to take a solidarity approach in procuring additional vaccines for Croatian citizens to help the country mitigate the consequences of the recent earthquake. He also voiced support for the Commission's efforts to ensure wide and equal access to vaccines, namely for the countries of the EU Neighbourhood, of which the Western Balkans should be given priority.
Members of the General Affairs Council also reviewed the priorities of Portugal’s EU Council presidency, which focus on three key areas: 1) promoting the EU recovery boosted by the climate and digital transitions, 2) implementing the European pillar of social rights as a central element for ensuring a fair and inclusive climate and digital transition, and 3) strengthening Europe's strategic autonomy whilst remaining open to the world.
On behalf of Slovenia, the next country to take up the presidency baton, State Secretary Dovžan wished Portugal every success during its presidency. He approved the aforementioned priorities, which are in line with the EU strategic agenda and the Trio’s 18-month programme, co-drafted by Slovenia. He welcomed the programme's focus on countering the fallout of the pandemic, with a speedy implementation of the recovery plan being the key element to overcoming it. The State Secretary highlighted Slovenia's commitment to a comprehensive capacity building of the EU in response to health and other crises.
The ministers and foreign secretaries for European affairs briefly took note of the state of preparations for the Conference on the Future of Europe.