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24th Oct 2021

EU vaccine-sharing could have 'strategic' value

  • Kiev: Ukraine, as well as Georgia and Moldova, want to join the EU (Photo: Marco Fieber)

The EU should share corona-vaccines with former Soviet countries on its eastern flank, according to 13 foreign ministers from member states in the region.

"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 ministers said in a letter to the European Commission on Wednesday (6 January).

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The "Eastern Partners" are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Some of them, such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, want to join the EU in future.

Two of them - Azerbaijan and Belarus - are dictatorships with no interest in reform, while Armenia is being held back by Russia from building closer EU ties, amid competition for influence in the region.

Belarus, which is under EU sanctions, has also deliberately infected opposition activists with Covid-19, by packing them into crowded cells with known corona-sufferers, as a means of terrorising the pro-democracy movement there.

But despite all that, EU vaccine-aid, would "send a strong and coordinated message on the strategic value of the EaP [Eastern Partnership, an EU policy for building closer ties with the six states]," the 13 EU ministers said.

"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," they added.

The EU already had a vaccine-support scheme for Western Balkan countries, they noted.

The 13 ministers came from EU states on or near to its eastern borders - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden.

The EU already was already in talks with Western Balkan governments on vaccine-sharing, they noted.

And it should also consider rolling out its generosity to North African and Middle Eastern countries in future, they added.

"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," the letter said.

For its part, the EU commission said the same day it was already "exploring" their ideas.

"Vaccines are a global public good," a commission spokeswoman told press in Brussels.

And EU institutions were in talks with member states to create a "mechanism for facilitating donation and resale of vaccines the have been obtained via EU advance purchases," from global pharmaceutical companies, the spokeswoman added.

"The EU is safe when all EU neighbours are safe," Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis also said on Twitter.

"The current lack of vaccines is indeed temporary," he said.

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