13 EU members call for vaccine aid for Eastern Partnership countries ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Flags of the Eastern Partnership member countries, European Union and Estonia at the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership.
Flags of the Eastern Partnership member countries, European Union and Estonia at the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership. Source: Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership

Estonia is among 13 European Union countries calling for the COVID-19 vaccine to be made available to six neighboring European Union countries arguing "our borders will not be safe if we do not extend our support to our immediate neighbours".

In a letter sent to the European Commission, it was written that there is strong support for the efforts and initiatives of member states and the European Commission "to share the vaccines from the allocated contracts with the closest EU neighbours, such as the Western Balkan countries".

But the 13 members believe these efforts should now be extended to the Eastern Partnership countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

"We believe that our borders will not be safe if we do not extend our support to our immediate neighbours. Our Eastern Partners have on numerous occasions expressed their appreciation for the EU's COVID-related assistance and pleaded for facilitated access to the vaccine," the letter states.

"We call on the Commission to quickly develop a similar support mechanism that the Commission has already launched with regard to the Western Balkans countries. In the context of the upcoming EaP Summit (foreseen for the first half of 2021) we need to send a strong and coordinated message on the strategic value of the EaP."

The letter was signed by the ministers of foreign affairs from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden. 

The letter was addressed to European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety and Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi.

The full letter can be read here, or below:

At the recent European Council the EU leaders have discussed and agreed to further co-lead the international response to the pandemic globally and to help other non-EU countries by providing affordable and fair access to the COVID-19 vaccine for all.

We strongly support the efforts and initiatives by Member States and the European Commission to share the vaccines from the allocated contracts with the closest EU neighbours, such as the Western Balkan countries.

At the same time we believe that the EU has to go beyond the current initiatives and give similar attention and support to the other EU neighbors – the countries of EU Eastern Partnership (EaP) – if they wish so. We believe that our borders will not be safe if we do not extend our support to our immediate neighbours. Our Eastern Partners have on numerous occasions expressed their appreciation for the EU's COVID-related assistance and pleaded for facilitated access to the vaccine.

The joint "Team Europe" initiative looks as the most efficient and promising mechanism in this respect. Consultations currently under way at the subgroup on vaccine donation resulted in promising steps with regard to our Western Balkan partners, including support from the available EU instruments.

We call on the Commission to quickly develop a similar support mechanism that the Commission has already launched with regard to the Western Balkans countries. In the context of the upcoming EaP Summit (foreseen for the 1st half of 2021) we need to send a strong and coordinated message on the strategic value of the EaP. Facilitated vaccine- 2 sharing/support access for our Eastern Partners would be one important element of such a message.

We are confident that our efforts will be appreciated by the Governments and civil society of the EU Eastern Partners and will increase the visibility of the geopolitical efforts of the Commission and of the whole EU.

Being aware of the pandemic situation in the southern neighbourhood, we should also be ready to support this group of countries, if they express their interest.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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