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COVID-19 pandemic, security and defence, among the topics discussed at GAC informal meeting

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On Tuesday, Secretary of State Iulia Matei participated in the informal meeting of ministers and state secretaries for European Affairs from EU member states, held in videoconference format, informs the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE).

The officials discussed aspects related to coordination at the EU level in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening the EU resilience in the health care field, as well as initiatives in the security and defence fields.

The agenda of the General Affairs Council meeting also included discussions on the Action Plan on European Democracy, published by the European Commission in December 2020, respectively EU-UK relations, as well a briefing from the Portuguese Presidency on the Conference on the future of Europe.

With regard to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary of State Iulia Matei reaffirmed the need to maintain close coordination at the European level and a balanced and proportionate approach in terms of the measures adopted, both at the European and at the national level. In this context, he pleaded to avoid the introduction of unilateral measures that would affect the proper functioning of internal markets and the implementation of green corridors, designed to facilitate the movement of goods and people.

Iulia Matei also underscored the importance of vaccination campaigns, highlighting their role for the efficient management of the pandemic. He also expressed Romania's support for strengthening resilience at the EU level in the health field, starting from the lessons learned during the crisis.

Regarding the security and defence issues, the Romanian Secretary of State underscored the importance of a realistic approach based on coherence in the implementation of EU initiatives and complementarity with similar NATO processes. In this context, the Romanian dignitary reiterated the support for the implementation of the EU Strategy in the field of cybersecurity and highlighted the important role that the future European Cybersecurity Competence Centre in Bucharest will play in creating a European cybersecurity ecosystem.

With regard to the Action Plan for European Democracy, she welcomed the ambitious and comprehensive approach proposed by the European Commission, which is in line with the Union's overall objective of promoting European values. She underscored, in the same context, her support for the objectives of freedom of the press and combating misinformation.

Discussions on the EU's future relations with the United Kingdom took place in the presence of former Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier. The Romanian Secretary of State for European Affairs thanked him on this occasion for his efforts throughout the negotiation process, which led to the conclusion of a cooperation agreement with the United Kingdom and the maintenance of EU27 in support of common goals.

The Romanian dignitary also underscored that, in terms of the future management of these relations, a unitary and coordinated approach at the EU level, based on solidarity, remains essential. He reiterated the signalling on the differentiated approach of the UK in relation to the citizens of five Member States, including Romania, regarding the amount of the fee charged for long-stay visas. He called for the identification of a solution at the European level to avoid differentiated approaches in relation to EU citizens, reiterating Romania's expectation to continue the European Commission's efforts in this regard.

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