On 22–23 July 2021, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs took part in an informal meeting of the EU General Affairs Council in Slovenia. At the beginning of the meeting, the Slovenian Presidency presented European Council priorities. Toward the end, the discussion turned to the topic of EU resilience following the COVID-19 crisis, and how to enhance the EU’s readiness with regard to looking ahead and improving coordination, as well as on promoting autonomy.
The European Commission, in accordance with the views voiced by EU leaders at the European Council in February, released a 15 June report on experience gained and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to ensure heightened crisis preparedness of the EU in the future with respect to public health risks, the European Commission’s report underlined the need for a united EU approach on questions related to vaccines, and the importance, in general, of close coordination within the European Union during crises, including in the financial sphere.
In talking about the EU’s post-crisis recovery, Edgars Rinkēvičs stressed the need to continue close coordination amongst Member States and to continue the strengthening of the single market and the Schengen zone, and to be promoting Europe’s strategic autonomy, including on stepping up the capabilities to produce vaccines.
The updating of the EU’s industrial strategy which addressed questions related to problems such as supply disruptions which can arise in the context of offers from industry external to the Union. At the same time, the discussion underlined the need to utilise advantages that can be derived from the European Commission’s strategic forecasting. Identifying and preventing shortcomings while at the same time using the EU capabilities effectively is a means of ensuring preparedness and resilience in advance of an upcoming crisis.
The Latvian Foreign Minister mentioned, toward the end of his comments during the meeting that notwithstanding the necessity of introducing safety measures that protect our society during a pandemic, upholding democratic values – human rights and rule of law – are of major importance.
EU partners from the Western Balkans also took part in the discussion on the EU’s resilience following the COVID-19 crisis.