On 28 April 2021, the foreign services of the Baltic States held their annual consular consultations via videoconferencing. The focus again this year was on the impact made by the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of consular assistance and consular services, highlighting the need for finding sustainable and permanent solutions.
Online meetings make it possible to involve a larger number of experts and address a broader range of topics, Guna Japiņa, Director of the Consular Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, underlined. The consultations dealt with the possibilities of providing medical assistance abroad and the problems of carrying out medical repatriation, which is of special importance during the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Consular officials also discussed their firsthand experience of mutual cooperation in the field of consular assistance in line with the updated Consular Convention between Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which came into force on 2 June 2020.
An in-depth discussion was held on the accessibility of consular services under conditions that accompany a pandemic in order to ensure that their provision complies with epidemiological security requirements while satisfying the increasing demand for such services. Consular officials also shared opinions on solutions and best practices in ensuring e-services and other types of remote services to the Baltic States’ nationals residing abroad.
Possibilities for outsourcing service providers on a broader scale were also discussed, including when the issuance of visas could be fully resumed following the pandemic. The delegations unanimously supported the work initiated by the European Commission and Member States to introduce digital Schengen visas.
Consular consultations between the Baltic States are held annually, and this year they were organised by Latvia.