C5 ministers discuss Slovenia’s EU presidency, pandemic

Brdo pri Kranju – Foreign Minister Anže Logar hosted his counterparts from Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia in Brdo pri Kranju on Monday. Apart from talking about Slovenia’s upcoming EU presidency, the Central 5 (C5) foreign ministers also discussed the coronavirus pandemic.

“The meeting was a great opportunity to present our views and priorities for the presidency so as to harmonise key issues that will be on the EU’s agenda within the central European club of countries,” Logar told the press after meeting Austria’s Alexander Schallenberg, Czech Republic’s Tomaš Petriček, Hungary’s Peter Szijjarto and Slovakia’s Ivan Korčok.

The Foreign Ministry said in a press release after the meeting that Logar underlined the importance of strengthening the EU’s resilience to crises such as pandemics, and boosting security, including cyber security.

Economic and social recovery through green and digital transformation will also be key priorities for Slovenia, Logar was quoted as saying in the press release. Moreover, the EU must be a reliable partner to countries in its neighbourhood, said Logar and underlined the importance of strengthening trans-Atlantic ties.

The four visiting foreign ministers expressed support for Slovenia’s presidency, which they believe will take place under very demanding circumstances.

The ministers also spent a fair share of time discussing the coronavirus pandemic in their respective countries. They believe the situation remains serious and encourage facilitation of vaccination efforts. They also expressed support for an EU-wide vaccination certificate, agreeing that countries should wait to see the EU Commission’s proposal.

Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg said that the green digital passport, the legislation for which is to be proposed later this month by the Commission, could be a ticket to a normal life during the summer.

Logar offered Slovenian healthcare’s help to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which are hardest-hit at the moment, with his counterparts thanking him for the offer. “Whenever a country has needed help, we’ve shown great solidarity within the C5 group,” Logar said.

Schallenberg said countries must continue to work closely and coordinate with each other coronavirus measures. The Czech and Hungarian foreign ministers said that measures must hinder cross-border flow of good as little as possible.

The Austrian minister called on the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to speed up the approval of Covid-19 vaccines. This was echoed by Czech Minister Petriček. “We wish other vaccines would be approved as soon as possible to speed up the process.”

Hungary’s Szijjarto said that national regulators should be allowed to approve vaccines as well. Hungary is the only EU member to approve Russian and Chinese vaccines, which will enable it to inoculate an additional 3.5 million people by the end of May, according to him.

Slovak Minister Korčok meanwhile called on vaccine producers outside the EU who want to sell in the EU market to request approval from EMA.

The ministers also talked about the strategic importance of the Western Balkans, with Logar saying they agreed to cooperate on the subject during Slovenia’s EU presidency.

A lot is expected of Slovenia’s presidency for the region, said Schallenberg, adding that 2021 should not be a wasted year for the Western Balkans.

Petriček expressed hope that greater progress will be made in terms of the Western Balkans and EU enlargement than last year.

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