The presidents of Slovenia, Croatia, and Austria agreed at a meeting on Thursday that vaccination against COVID-19 should be stepped up, but without pressuring people to get inoculated.
The host of this year’s trilateral meeting was Slovenia and the meeting took place in the southern town of Kostanjevica na Krki. The first meeting in this format took place in Vienna in March 2014.
The latest meeting of Presidents Borut Pahor of Slovenia, Zoran Milanovic of Croatia and Alexander Van der Bellen of Austria focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the European Union membership prospects of the Western Balkan countries.
The vaccination campaign has slowed down in most EU countries and politicians are trying to find a way to convince people to get vaccinated.
“The best message to the public is that if you are vaccinated, your life will not be miserable anymore. Otherwise, all this is pointless,” Milanovic said.
Pahor said that people should be convinced “in a polite and tolerant way” to get vaccinated, adding that he did not believe that criticising sceptics, repression, or penalties could achieve the desired effect.
In Croatia, 39.6 percent of the adult population have been fully inoculated against COVID-19. Slovenia has fully inoculated 42 percent of its population and Austria has exceeded 50 percent.
Van der Bellen said that healthcare and education were the sectors that were expected to show understanding.
Milanovic said he agreed that medical staff and workers at nursing homes should get vaccinated. He added that repression and punishment was not the way to increase the vaccination rate.
“My patience with people who do not want to get vaccinated is immense, as is my astonishment because I think that any form of administrative repression is the path to tyranny,” the Croatian president said.
He warned that the administrative policies that had been adopted for more than a year now restricted basic human rights, while in most countries, including Croatia, these were not accompanied by “appropriate acts from the top.”