After the session of the European Council, Prime Minister Janez Janša spoke about the individual items on the agenda in detail, at a press conference on Friday. He spoke about coordination on COVID-19, climate change, the fight against terrorism, the relations between the EU and the US, Turkey, and the Southern Neighbourhood. After the meeting of the European Council, Janša stressed that the summit had been very successful. “Despite the pessimistic expectations, this summit has also proved that once things get tough, the EU Member States come together and find solutions, even where they might not have been anticipated before the meetings,” he said in a press statement.
After the meeting of the European Council, Prime Minister Janez Janša said that the summit had been very successful. “Despite the pessimistic expectations, this summit has also proved that once things get tough, the EU Member States come together and find solutions, even where they might not have been anticipated before the meetings,” he said in a press statement. He then pointed out that two interlinked topics were the main points of the session. The first is the tackling of the pandemic, and the second is the provision of the necessary financial instruments for mitigating the consequences of the pandemic and further development. He pointed out that the entire package, which should have been put in place on the 1st of January 2021, “hung in the air,” due to the complications related to the instrument, under which the so-called rule of law clause would protect the financial assets.
At the meeting, the European Council closed all the outstanding issues and found a solution that pleased both sides, and the winner in all of this is the European Union. “We were given the opportunity to realise the plan of both instruments being put in place on the 1st of January 2021. Some fast-track procedures will be needed,” which he believes are feasible. “By deciding on the course we will take, we gained a mechanism worthy of that name. It is an approach that excludes arbitrariness, which makes it possible to apply the same one-size-fits-all rule for all Member States, and it is a mechanism which will be subject to the judgement of the European Court of Justice,” he explained and then once again congratulated the German Presidency, as well as Poland and Hungary, for being able to take the steps that ultimately led to the compromise, after everything hung in the air for a while.
The leaders also exchanged the experiences related to the pandemic at the meeting. Following the exchange of information with the European Commission, based on new forecasts and data, Janša said the picture of the future is optimistic. Namely, due to the vaccines that represent a light at the end of the tunnel. Because of the weather conditions, however, the next two months will be very difficult. “Christmas and New Year’s holidays also pose a significant risk, so most countries are going to tighten up the measures during this time. Even those who have already released the measures after the second wave,” he explained.
Regarding the vaccine, Prime Minister Janez Janša said that the first, that is, Pfizer’s vaccine, would be available by the 27th of December at the latest, and probably even earlier. He believes that the main reason why the UK has already approved the vaccine, but the EU has not approved it yet, is that the EU verification process is more complicated. The operation of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) includes the participation of national agencies in its broader context. A technical agreement is required, and EMA is still waiting for the agreement of two countries.
Europe will thus receive a 100% verified and tested vaccine, which will not be supported by only one national verification body, but rather, by the bodies of all Member states, which means that the vaccine will be almost 100% safe, the Prime Minister pointed out. “The vaccine needs to be stored at a low temperature, so its transport and storage require considerable logistical effort,” he pointed out. He also said that at the session of the European Council, the leaders of the Member States agreed that all countries would receive the vaccine, that they would all receive it on the same day; that the vaccinations will start within the same day or week and will be distributed proportionally, based on the number of inhabitants. By mid-January at the latest, the second vaccine will be available, which will be distributed in the same way and following the same procedures as the first one. In the first half of January, we can expect the beginning of vaccination of the most at-risk groups in all EU countries, with two proven and approved vaccines. However, as there will not be enough vaccine initially, at least some of the measures will probably have to stay in place until the middle of next year.
In his statement, Prime Minister Janša pointed out the unknowns when it comes to immunity and the need to use rapid tests in healthcare, care for the elderly, in critical infrastructure and, most likely, in the field of education as well. “We have received useful information from the countries that have already carried out mass testing. We know what works out and what does not work. For the virus to disappear from the population, 70% of the population in each Member State must be vaccinated.” He also pointed out that a form for expressing interest in being vaccinated is already available in Slovenia. “The sooner someone applies, the sooner they will get the chance to be vaccinated if they are not part of a risk group or the healthcare staff, who will be the first to receive the vaccine,” he added.
European leaders welcome the new Counter-Terrorism Agenda
Regarding the discussion on climate change, Janša pointed out that the agreement on increasing the 2030 emissions reduction target, contained comments made by Slovenia and Croatia. As the Prime Minister pointed out, the European leaders welcomed the new Counter-Terrorism Agenda and also supported the sanctions against Turkey, based on the legal framework established last November. The leaders also met on Friday, at the Euro Summit. In a press statement, the Prime Minister also pointed out that the national recovery plan was under preparation and that the government is very likely to adopt it later this month, even though the deadline is set in April 2021. “Healthcare is our priority,” he explained. He also said that on Saturday, a consultation would be held with the heads of hospitals and healthcare centres, regarding the additional capacities and new investments on all the projects that have so far been at a standstill.