On 20 April 2021, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, took part in an informal videoconference of the European Union’s European Affairs Ministers. The Council focused on the rule of law dialogue in the EU, the state of play in the relations with the United Kingdom and EU coordination in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the inauguration of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The Parliamentary Secretary called for rapidly completing discussions with the European Parliament on a digital certificate, so that it could be adopted and put into operation already at the end of June according to the planned schedule. Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica also noted the high importance of cooperation with international organisations on this matter to enable interoperability of the certificate system with third countries, including transatlantic partners.
The proposal for the Digital Green Certificate Regulation envisages that the certificate contain information that the holder has been vaccinated in an EU Member State, as well as data on the type of the holder’s COVID-19 test, its results and date, or a certificate that the holder has recovered from COVID-19.
The Member States will be expected to inform the European Commission and other Member States about the type of certificates issued and accepted, including, which vaccines the country recognises – only those recognised by the European Medicines Agency or others recognised at the national level. Where a Member State plans to impose a quarantine, self-isolation and testing requirements or to prohibit any certificate holders from entering, the Member State shall notify the European Commission and other Member States specifying the reason for certain measures, the scope of restrictions, and the date and time when such restrictions are to take effect.
The General Affairs Council also heard from the Vice President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, as Ministers took stock of the state of play in the relations between the EU and the United Kingdom. The UK’s decision to unilaterally delay full application of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland has made the situation considerably more complicated. The Parliamentary Secretary underlined that meanwhile the EU should complete the ratification of the agreement on future relationship, which serves as a basis for further relations and forestalls a no-deal Brexit.
The participants also heard a report from the Presidency of the Conference on the Future of Europe and its digital platform opened on 19 April, which will make it possible, in all the 24 official languages of the EU, for the Union’s citizens to offer and discuss ideas on the EU’s future, to plan events for debate and sharing of opinions.
We welcome the launch of the multilingual platform, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica said, emphasizing that it will play a key role in reaching out to broader societies in EU Member States. People and organisations in Latvia are invited to make an active use of the platform, so that the opinion of Latvian nationals would be represented in the Conference to the broadest possible extent.
In the continuing dialogue on rule of law developments, this time the discussions were focusing on the situation in Germany, Ireland, Spain, and France. The first annual report of the European Commission on 30 September 2020 served as a basis for the discussion. All Member States have contributed to producing the report, and the analysis by the European Commission is based on a uniform methodology applied in all Member States.
A country-specific dialogue is held at the General Affairs Council twice a year. The Commission has begun the preparation of the second Rule of Law Report, which it intends to publish in July 2021. This will form a basis for a discussion on Latvia during the Slovenian Presidency in the autumn. Following the methodology, the Member States are assessed according to four pillars: justice systems; the anti-corruption framework; media pluralism and freedom; and other issues related to institutional balance.
The meetings of the General Affairs Council are held once a month and, in the first half of 2021, they are chaired by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU.
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