On 1 December 2020, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, took part in an informal video-conference meeting of the European Union General Affairs Council, which addressed the future of Europe and the EU’s coordination and interoperability in mitigating and containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current German Presidency of the Council of the EU engaged in a discussion on Europe’s future with members of the European Youth Parliament – Young Europe Ambassadors – who, with a view to the 2021 conference on the future of Europe, had produced a discussion paper on what Europe should look like in 10 to 15 years. A representative from Latvia, Emīlija Linda Mendelsone, was a co-author contributing to the part of the document, entitled Vision for EU Democracy.
In a discussion with Member State ministers and Young European Ambassadors on visions for the future of Europe, the Parliamentary Secretary underlined that all EU Member States must preserve the highest standards of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe and all over the world. “We still have to work on resilience of our democratic systems and strengthen our information defence, fighting against fake news, external interference in national election process, and radicalisation on social media platforms,” Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica underlined.
The Parliamentary Secretary noted that the conference on the future of Europe has a major role to play in this. This must not be a process in which only the elite participate. This must be an inclusive and all-embracing dialogue, discussing ideas on how to strengthen the EU, how to bring it closer to its citizens and how best to promote trust in its institutions.
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica also outlined Latvia’s experience in 2018 Citizens’ Consultations. Two main elements, she said, were the basis of Latvia’s success: going local and delegating the organizing and holding of discussions to civil society organisations that allowed engagement with local communities in all the regions of Latvia and putting emphasis on important issues for them; as well as “going digital” – an innovative digital tool built by our civic initiative platform, https://manabalss.lv (“my voice”), which enabled people to put forward their ideas for the EU’s future and vote for them. The Parliamentary Secretary drew attention to this example as a means to produce practical results and improvements that can benefit the societies of every EU Member State.
In the second part of the informal meeting, the participants discussed EU-wide coordination to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting best practices in current cooperation and improvements that are needed for further action and coordination.
The Parliamentary Secretary underlined the need to learn from mistakes made in spring such as border closures and export restrictions and not repeat them.
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica pointed out that experience-sharing on how to increase testing capacity and allocation of EU financing for rapid antigen tests are clear examples of how we can work together. The Parliamentary Secretary also underlined the importance of the Apturi Covid (Stop COVID) application in contact-tracing, calling on EU Member States to align their national systems, thereby ensuring broader coverage.
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