On 15 and 16 October, EU leaders met in Brussels to discuss the epidemiological situation, relations with the United Kingdom, climate change and foreign affairs, in particular relations with Africa.
The European Council assessed the current epidemiological situation, which is unprecedented and gives rise to very serious concern.
Leaders welcomed the progress achieved so far on overall coordination at EU level against COVID-19, including the recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement.
EU leaders agreed to continue the coordination effort, regarding:
- quarantine regulations
- cross-border contact tracing
- testing strategies
- joint assessment of testing methods
- temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU
EU leaders also discussed the next steps to ensure the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. They welcomed the work done so far at EU level and stressed further the need for a robust authorisation and monitoring process, the building of vaccination capacity in the EU, and fair and affordable access to vaccines. On the topic of vaccines, they also encouraged cooperation at global level.
The European Council recalled that the transition period will end on 31 December 2020 and noted with concern that progress on the key issues of interest to the Union was still not sufficient.
EU leaders reaffirmed the EU’s determination to have as close as possible a partnership with the United Kingdom on the basis of the negotiating directives of 25 February 2020, while respecting the previously agreed European Council guidelines, statements and declarations.
Leaders called on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible.
As regards the Internal Market Bill tabled by the UK government, the European Council recalled that the withdrawal agreement and its protocols must be fully and timely implemented.
EU leaders called to step up their work on preparedness and readiness at all levels and for all outcomes, including that of no agreement. They also invited the Commission to give timely consideration to unilateral and time-limited contingency measures that are in the EUʼs interest.
To meet the objective of a climate-neutral EU by 2050, in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, the EU needs to increase its ambition for the coming decade. The European Council discussed the Commission’s communication on ‘Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition’, including the proposed emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030, and the actions required to achieve that ambition.
EU leaders consider that the updated target should be delivered collectively by the EU in the most cost-effective manner possible. All member states will participate in this effort, taking into account national circumstances and considerations of fairness and solidarity. All relevant EU legislation and policies need to contribute to the new 2030 target and to the fulfilment of the climate neutrality objective, while respecting a level playing field and preventing carbon leakage.
The European Council invited the Council to take work on this forward. Leaders invited the Commission to conduct in-depth consultations with member states to assess the specific situations and to provide more information about the impact at member statesʼ level.
The European Council will return to the issue at its December meeting to agree a new emissions reduction target for 2030 and the submission of the EU’s updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change before the end of the year. Leaders called upon all other parties to also submit an updated NDC and underlined the importance of strong coordinated action through active European climate diplomacy.
To help address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Council is committed to furthering international debt relief for African countries within the relevant multilateral frameworks. EU leaders asked the Council to prepare a common approach in this respect by the end of November 2020. EU leaders are also committed to strengthening EU support to health systems and the reinforcement of partners’ preparedness and response capacity. Solidarity and cooperation in the fight against the pandemic, including the development of vaccines and their distribution, are crucial.
The EU wants to extend its partnership with Africa on its economic transformation, in parallel with the green and digital transformation. The European Council discussed its intention to work with its African partners and boost investment. The following sectors are key for further cooperation and investment:
- the digital and knowledge economy
- renewable energy
- agri-food systems
Universal values, non-discrimination, equal rights and equal opportunities for all, women’s empowerment, youth inclusion, education and skills, social, environmental and economic sustainability, as well as good governance and the rule of law are key cross-cutting themes for EU engagement.
Leaders agreed that the EU is ready to continue supporting African efforts on peace and security, good governance and the promotion of human rights. The EU also wishes to engage African partners in addressing mobility and all aspects of migration, including illegal migration and the fight against migrant-smuggling networks, both within and between the two continents.