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General Affairs Council on preparations for a European Council meeting, COVID-19 coordination, and launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe

State Secretary Gašper Dovžan today attended a regular meeting of ministers and state secretaries for European affairs. The focus was mostly placed on preparations for a special European Council meeting, which will bring together the EU heads of state on 25 May 2021. Special attention was also devoted to climate policy discussions, the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, and EU-Russian Federation and EU-UK relations.

ministers talking standing up

State Secretary Dovžan at the GAC meeting with Secretary of State for European Affairs of Portugal Ana Paula Zacarias | Author Evropska unija

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On the topic of climate change, State Secretary Dovžan pointed out that national characteristics and different starting points of the EU Member States should be taken into account when implementing the policies and measures aimed at achieving our common goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 (compared to 1990). He emphasised that each state should continue to have the right to choose their own energy mix and the most appropriate technologies, calling for EU unity in achieving ambitious goals, including the preparations for the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will be held in Glasgow in November 2021.

During an in-depth debate on COVID-19 coordination, State Secretary Dovžan welcomed the efforts to provide vaccines to all EU citizens and to conclude long-term contracts with vaccine manufacturers, taking into account a wide range of vaccines based on different technologies. He went on to express support for introducing the Digital Green Certificate, which will contribute to free movement of citizen within the EU during the pandemic, noting that single supervision and coordinated action are needed in relation to the emergence of new virus strains. He committed to providing vaccines to the Western Balkan countries and India, which is currently facing a serious epidemiological situation.

In the debate on EU-Russia relations, the European Council members expressed solidarity with the Member States that were the victims of Russian activities and agreed on the need to further promote the EU’s unity and follow the five guiding principles for developing relations with Russia.

As for the future EU-UK relations, State Secretary Dovžan underlined the importance of maintaining both the unity and solidarity of Member States. He thanked the European Commission for its efforts to eliminate unequal treatment of citizens in the work permit process, adding that he expects this irregularity to be corrected promptly or discussed at the first Partnership Council meeting.

The members of the General Affairs Council welcomed the official launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe on 9 May 2021 in Strasbourg and paid tribute to the Conference’s Executive Board members who managed to resolve outstanding issues before last Sunday’s opening event. 

The ministers and state secretaries concluded the debate by calling for progress on EU enlargement and taking note of the current state of EU-Switzerland relations.