Lithuania's Foreign Vice-Minister Pranckevičius: Smooth vaccine supplies and full information on vaccines are today’s European Union priorities
On 23 February, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Arnoldas Pranckevičius took part in an informal video conference of European affairs ministers, who prepared the informal video conference of Members of the European Council on 25-26 February. Ministers discussed the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, security and defence, and issues of the European Union's neighbourhood. They also exchanged views on the European democracy action plan and took stock of the interinstitutional discussions on the Conference on the Future of Europe, as well as assessed the state of play of EU-UK relations.
As regards the COVID-19 pandemic, Pranckevičius said: Smooth vaccine supplies and the implementation of national vaccination strategies are essential. Therefore, barriers throughout the entire vaccine supply chain must be removed. In addition, it is particularly important to improve communication and to strengthen the fight against the spread of COVID-19 vaccine disinformation after the launch of mass vaccination. At the same time, the issue of assistance to our partners from the immediate neighbourhood remains particularly relevant. Thus, we hope that an EU vaccine sharing mechanism will become operational in the near future.
The Foreign Vice-Minister also stressed the need to ensure a smooth functioning of the EU's single market in line with the Council recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restrictions of free movement in the EU, especially the 'green corridors' principles.
When speaking about security and defence, the Foreign Vice-Minister assured that Lithuania supported the fight against hybrid and cyber threats. Pranckevičius highlighted the importance of cooperation with strategic partners when building the EU’s resilience: “The Transatlantic partnership is the foundation of our security. Thus, we must strengthen complementarity with NATO and give our strategic allies the opportunity to participate in the EU's structured cooperation projects,” said Pranckevičius.
The Vice-Minister welcomed the political decision taken by the Foreign Affairs Council to impose sanctions against Russian officials over the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and the repression of peaceful protests under the EU global human rights sanctions regime, and called on the EU to dedicate attention to the issue at the highest level.
Ministers also discussed the implementation of the European democracy action plan. The Commission has adopted this initiative with the aim to ensure that citizens are able to participate in the democratic system through informed decision-making free from unlawful interference and manipulation. Lithuania will actively engage in the implementation of the initiative: “We emphasise the transparency of the funding of European political parties and political advertising. We particularly support the fight against disinformation and attention given to the economic cost from fake news, and malicious attempts to influence the EU's decision-making process,” said the Vice-Minister.
European affairs ministers assessed the state of play of EU-UK relations. “It is particularly important to ensure that the UK does not discriminate between EU countries on fees for work visas and that the citizens of five Eastern European and Baltic countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia) must not pay more to get a UK work visa than other EU nationals. It is essential to ensure equal treatment of EU citizens,” said Pranckevičius.