The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and High-level representatives of the CEI Member States converged in an e-meeting on 24 September to take stock of the latest developments in the CEI region following the COVID-19 pandemic, as we step into the transition to a “new normal”.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Srđan Darmanović - who chaired the gathering under the Montenegrin CEI Presidency 2020 - underlined that the meeting represented a continuation of joint efforts to defeat the crisis by fostering inter-country cooperation and strong partnerships. To tackle collective challenges defining clear priorities and undertaking concrete actions “we have to work together more effectively with stronger institutional links”, said Darmanovic.
SG Roberto Antonione highlighted that “no one can think of winning this crisis alone and no one must be left behind”. In this context, he underlined that the CEI and WHO Regional Office for Europe had joined forces and launched a Task Force to tackle the health emergency. He then briefed the participants on the Extraordinary Call for Proposals dedicated to health, education and SMEs, which aimed at addressing the needs of our citizens on the ground, financed by all Member States and Italy. The Secretariat had unexpectedly received more than 7000 applications, which only demonstrates the gravity of the situation and how huge the needs of our citizens are. Antonione also emphasised that to overcome any possible dramatic consequences, “we should adjust our future actions by enhancing trust and confidence and creating opportunities and skills in health as well as socio-economic related sectors”.
All participants agreed on the importance of multilateral cooperation and coherence, also at regional level, during the recovery phase, thus transforming this transnational challenge into an opportunity for a better future. They echoed the important role the CEI could play during the transition, in particular in tackling future challenges. In this regard, the work of the CEI-WHO Task Force to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic was praised and highlighted as a best practice model to be replicated in other areas, in particular the economic one.
The gathering also witnessed the presence of the EU Commission, the WHO, the EBRD and regional organisations, who expressed commitment towards targeted synergies and increased collaboration for jointly addressing issues of common interest.
EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, pointed out that in the future, the countries of the CEI region would need strategic and targeted investment in areas that would enable them to kick-start their economies in a sustainable way and increase their convergence with the EU.
The Ministers concluded their meeting with the adoption of a Communiquè where they endorsed the continuation of the CEI Presidency chaired by Montenegro in 2021.
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