STA, 15 September 2020 - The foreign ministers of Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia agreed at a Central 5 (C5) meeting in Slovenia on Tuesday that the members of the informal initiative will regularly coordinate their measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Coordination meetings would be held every two weeks via videoconference at the level of police commissioners, Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar said.
According to him, the ministers also agreed that the European Commission should create a joint mechanism for measures and standards in the event of an increasing number of infections.
"Our governments are facing the difficult task of limiting the most risky cases in terms of further spreading as much as possible," said Logar, adding that a renewed closure of all borders was not an option for the time being.
But "countries must do their homework", and "a system which would be predictable in advance needs to be created so that measures which affect people on both sides of the border need not be taken," the Slovenian foreign minister added.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said that the Central European countries had the shared goal of not getting into a situation similar to that in March and April, when borders around Europe had been mostly closed.
"We must show that we have learned something in recent months," said Schallenberg, whose country borders eight countries.
Schallenberg added that cooperation of the Central European countries was very important as a second wave of Covid-19 was about to start. "We are a closely connected economic area," he said, adding that the economy must continue functioning.
.@MZZRS ?? dr. @AnzeLog bo jutri na Brdu pri Kranju gostil zunanje ministre ?? @SchallenbergA, ?? @TPetricek, ?? Pétra Szijjárta in ?? @IvanKorcok. Ministri se bodo že tretjič srečali v okviru neformalne pobude Central 5. pic.twitter.com/YVGPEz4Y36— Vlada Republike Slovenije (@vladaRS) September 14, 2020
Zunanji ministri na srečanju #Central5 na Brdu ??: Slovenija, Avstrija, Češka & Slovaška so zavezane k tesnemu usklajevanju ukrepov #COVID19 in okrepljenemu regionalnemu sodelovanju, ki lahko še bolj okrepi skupna ?? prizadevanja, tudi pri reševanju kriz v soseščini #EU. #Belarus pic.twitter.com/UBI064JciF— SLOVENIAN MFA (@MZZRS) September 15, 2020
Na 3. srečanju zunanjih ministrov neuradne pobude #Central5 v Sloveniji @AnzeLog ??, #Schallenberg ??, @TPetricek ?? & @IvanKorcok ?? o odzivih na #COVID19, gospodarskem okrevanju, infrastrukturnih projektih & razmerah v soseščini #EU. Spremljajte v živo➡️https://t.co/QtKWD3hYiE pic.twitter.com/bQVQYN713s— SLOVENIAN MFA (@MZZRS) September 15, 2020
Tomaš Petriček, the minister of foreign affairs of the Czech Republic, pointed to the importance of informing other countries of upcoming Covid-19 measures in advance, including because of work migrants and trade.
Asked about migrations and the the fire in the Moria migrant centre on the Greek island of Lesbos, Schallenberg and Petriček agreed that the debate on migration did not divide the Central European countries.
"All of us here agree that Greece will not be left high and dry, we will help it," said the Austrian minister, while his Czech colleague added that "a compromise will be found".
The ministers also discussed the situation in Belarus, and talks on the topic will be continued over the working lunch, Logar said, while Petriček added that a coordinated response of the EU to the crisis in Belarus had been endorsed.
Slovakia's Ivan Korčok added that the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels next Monday would need to send a clear signal to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to stop the violence and start dialogue with the opposition.
"We are shocked with the developments in Belarus," said Korčok, labelling as unacceptable that people are getting beaten and that people who think differently are punished. He also expects that sanctions will be introduced against Belarus.
According to a press release from the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, part of the talks was dedicated to economic matters, with focus being on possibilities of integration of regional infrastructure and connectivity.
Cooperation within various forums and platforms was also on the agenda, as the five Central European countries participate in the Three Seas Initiative, which looks to strengthen cooperation in Central and East Europe.
As for EU topics, the ministers welcomed the consensus on the next multi-year budget and the recovery fund, which will enable the member states' economies to address the pandemic and other challenges such as digitalisation and climate change, the ministry said.
This was the third meeting of the initiative, which also includes Hungary, but was held without Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who is paying a visit to the US.
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