Ratas expresses COVID-19 vaccine concerns to European Council

Jüri Ratas taking part via remote link-up in his last European Council meeting as prime minister, Thursday evening.
Jüri Ratas taking part via remote link-up in his last European Council meeting as prime minister, Thursday evening. Source: Government Office.

Jüri Ratas (Center) expressed concern about coronavirus vaccine procurement to European Union leaders Thursday evening, particularly about the security of supply on the part of private sector suppliers.

Speaking at a European Council virtual meeting which included council president Charles Michel, Ratas said that: "It is vital that vaccine manufacturers comply with our agreements and ensure stable supplies.

All member states, including Estonia, need vaccine supplies in sufficient quantities, on time and regularly, to overcome the coronavirus faster.

Ratas' words followed news a week ago that the planned schedule of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines would be roughly halved.

The leaders expressed a desire to step-up vaccination rates, which in turn would require private sector firms, many of which are U.S. companies, to stick to agreements, and added that vaccines should be distributed equally, based on an equal footing, ERR's Brussels correspondent Joosep Värk reports.

Ratas also supported a German proposal for common COVID-19 restrictions, including quarantine duration and border closures, across the union.

He said: "Closing borders is the last step anyone would want to take. It is certainly important that people, workers and goods be able to move freely, and that the single market continues to function. We must refrain from repeating the confusion caused by restrictions on movement last spring."

Ratas also talked digital solutions in vaccine certification, which Charles Michel said needs to find agreement in terms of content and context.

EU leaders also expressed concern about new reported viral mutations, including those first identified in the non-EU nations of the U.K. and South Africa.

Ratas, Michel: Action needed on Navalny

Ratas also used the opportunity of his last European Council meet to bring up the topic of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, arrested upon touching down in Moscow Sunday evening. 

Charles Michel joined in his condemnation of the arrest and curbing of Navalny's rights, and called for his immediate release. Cooperation with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to ensure an impartial international investigation into the circumstances in which Navalny came to be poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent was also on the table, Michel said.

With regard to restrictions, while European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, also present at the European Council meeting, emphasized the importance of the functioning of the internal market and that restrictions be kept to a minimum where possible, Charles Michel said that new restrictions might not be avoidable in the light of the new mutations.

The next European Council meeting is scheduled for late March, though another extraordinary convening is likely to take place in February, by which time Estonia would be represented by Kaja Kallas (Reform).


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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