Foreign ministers Gordan Grlic-Radman of Croatia and Ivan Korcok of Slovakia defended on Monday vaccine procurement at the level of the EU, which is being criticised for a slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
I think it’s very good that the EU undertook joint steps for the member states and is jointly procuring the vaccine because if Croatia and Slovakia started procuring it on their own, they wouldn’t be as successful, they wouldn’t have such a good position, said Korcak, who is on a working visit to Croatia.
He said he was aware that the expected quantities had not arrived in the EU yet, but noted that the demand was simply too big and the production possibilities were not adequate for it.
Korcok said it was more important whether the vaccines were of adequate quality and if they were approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) rather than whether they were made in Russia, China or another country.
Grlic-Radman said “people’s health is a priority” in vaccine procurement. “Naturally, we are relying first and foremost on the EU, on solidarity and on the European Commission, which was in charge of vaccine procurement, on the principle of equity and equality.”
He agreed that “all vaccines coming from third countries must comply with EU regulations, first and foremost the EMA’s.”
He said one would first wait for the vaccines from the EU but added that Croatia was willing to talk with other countries.
Sanctions against Russia
On 22 February, EU foreign ministers will discuss the imposition of sanctions against Russia in response to the arrest of Alexei Navalny, a fierce critic of the Kremlin.
Korcok said he regretted that EU-Russia relations, ever since the annexation of Crimea, were more on the level of mutual sanctions than on looking for solutions and possibilities to come out of the current situation.
He said it was important for the EU to agree a common stand on the relations with Russia which, he added, were not good at the moment.
It depends on Russia too if those relations will have the form of cooperation or confrontation, he said.
“Russia is first and foremost a global player, it is a fact, in the EU’s immediate vicinity,” said Grlic-Radman, adding that one should have Russia as a partner despite disagreements on many issues.
“We have a dual approach, yes to sanctions, but also to dialogue,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today accused the EU of the collapse of Moscow-Brussels relations.
At a meeting with Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, he said the 2014 Ukraine political crisis was the watershed in the relations with the EU, adding that Germany, France and Poland had undermined the possibility of peace in eastern Ukraine.