During a General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds Dr Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi urged European member states not to take unilateral actions regarding COVID-19. He stated that these decisions must be taken as a group, ensuring that the interests of all member states are safeguarded, including our country’s. The meeting was convened to prepare for the extraordinary European Council meeting next week in Brussels.
Parliamentary Secretary Zrinzo Azzopardi remarked that the member states should agree on sound thresholds based on single indicators and the matrix for the joint map, which provides an objective picture of the epidemiological situation in the respective member states. This is because of the challenges that European stakeholders faced during this year’s lockdowns, notably with regards to the free movement of goods, which has mostly affected the pharmaceutical industry, particularly in terms of procurement of medical equipment.
COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses or exacerbated existing ones in the functioning of the single market. The parliamentary secretary stated that the Single Market is incomplete after 30 years and existing barriers to intra-EU trade remain. Parliamentary Secretary Zrinzo Azzopardi added that before discussing strategic autonomy of the Single Market, the European Union needs to analyse the strategic foresight of the Single Market by striking a balance between openness and inter-dependence with security and sovereignty of member states.
Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi urged the member states to be “ambitious and inclusive – signalling that we are ready to support our enterprises – SMEs micro-enterprises included, leaving no enterprise behind and steering clear of introducing excessive regulatory requirements and new legislative measures which could lead to further burdens on member states and businesses”.
Meanwhile, Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, briefed the ministers on the current status of trade negotiations between the EU and the UK. Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi urged the European Union to step-up the level of preparedness and contingency planning.
The agenda of the General Affairs Council included discussions on the Article 7 TEU procedures against Hungary and Poland and an update by the German Presidency on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2021-2027, which is currently being negotiated with the European Parliament.