EU States Urge Vaccine Help for Eastern Neighbours

Brussels, Jan 6 (AFP/APP): Thirteen EU member states on Wednesday urged Brussels to help the bloc’s eastern neighbours vaccinate their populations against coronavirus.

Foreign ministers from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden made the appeal in a joint letter to the European Commission seen by AFP.

“We believe that our borders will not be safe if we do not extend our support to our immediate neighbours,” the ministers wrote. “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 call comes as authorities in the EU face criticism over the slow rollout of inoculations across the 27-member bloc. Brussels has so far approved one vaccine from BioNTech/Pfizer and the European Medicines Agency on Wednesday gave the green light for a second from Moderna. The Commission is scrambling to secure more doses of approved vaccines but has complained of problems with production capacity.

The EU is already offering help with vaccines to countries outside the bloc in the Balkans and in December adopted a 70-million-euro ($86-million) package to help cover the cost of the jab. The letter sent Wednesday urged the bloc to now offer similar assistance to nations in its Eastern Partnership programme: ex-Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

“We believe that the EU has to go beyond the current initiatives and give similar attention and support to the other EU neighbours – the countries of EU Eastern Partnership,” the foreign ministers wrote.

A spokesperson for the commission confirmed the bloc had received the letter and said Brussels was in talks with partner countries, but did not give any details.

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