European affairs ministers discuss improving efficiency of EU measures to combat COVID-19
Government Communications Department 18.1.2021 16.05PRESS RELEASE 23/2021
The ministers for European Affairs held an informal video meeting on 18 January 2021. The main topics on the agenda were EU coordination in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and preparations for the video meeting of European Council members on 21 January. Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Tytti Tuppurainen represented Finland at the meeting.
The ministers held an exchange of views on how to improve the efficiency of EU coordination in dealing with COVID-19 and, in particular, how to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and ramp up their distribution. Finland supports the EU’s strong joint efforts to tackle COVID-19, including vaccine coordination. Any bottlenecks in the delivery of vaccines from the manufacturer to the Member States must be dealt with. Clear communication to citizens about the vaccination process and the timetable play an equally key role. The members of the European Council will discuss COVID-19 coordination and the situation with regard to vaccines in their video meeting on 21 January.
Minister Tuppurainen also pointed out the need to achieve global vaccination coverage in order to truly overcome the pandemic. With this goal in mind, the international COVAX Facility should be utilised effectively. The COVAX Facility aims to guarantee fair and speedy access to COVID-19 vaccines for every country in the world and to accelerate the development, manufacturing and delivery of the vaccines.
“The availability and efficient distribution of vaccines play a key role in thwarting COVID-19. The EU’s procurement cooperation got off to a good start, but we need to step up our efforts. It is also important to remember that no country is safe until the pandemic is under control around the world. We therefore need to show solidarity with regard to vaccines. This is also in line with our common European values,” says Minister Tuppurainen.
“In order to be able to monitor the vaccination situation in the best possible way, we need to have uniform statistics on vaccine coverage. We also need to establish a joint vaccine certificate, because our ultimate goal is to open up societies and secure the freedom of movement that is so important to us all.”
The Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which began on 1 January 2021, presented its priorities at the meeting. These are: promoting a recovery boosted by the climate and digital transitions; implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights as a key element for ensuring a fair and inclusive climate and digital transition; and strengthening Europe’s strategic autonomy whilst remaining open to the world.
The Portuguese Presidency also reported on the state of the preparations for the Conference on the Future of Europe. Preparations for the conference have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council, the European Parliament and the Commission are to agree on the mandate of the Conference with a joint declaration.
In the General Affairs Council (GAC), the EU Member States are primarily represented by their ministers for European affairs. The tasks of the Council include preparations for the European Council meetings. The GAC is also responsible for a number of cross-cutting policy areas, including negotiations on the multiannual financial framework and EU enlargement. Questions relating to the rule of law are also an established part of the Council’s agenda.