Focus on the future relationship with the United Kingdom

European Council meets in Brussels Focus on the future relationship with the United Kingdom

This Thursday and Friday, the EU heads of state and government will be meeting for the second time this month in Brussels. One important issue for this European Council meeting is Brexit, but the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate policy and relations with Africa are also on the agenda.

The European Council is meeting in the Council building in Brussels.

The heads of state and government of EU member states are meeting again in Brussels.

Photo: Francois Lenoir/Reuters Pool/AP/dpa

On Thursday afternoon Chancellor Angela Merkel will be flying to Brussels for the European Council meeting. As usual, the EU leaders will first meet with David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting will again be required to comply with rigorous hygiene and safety standards.

Negotiations with the United Kingdom

The future relationship with the United Kingdom will be central to the summit meeting. The Council will discuss the current status of negotiations with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier. They will look at the key issues, in particular the level playing field, fisheries and governance. They will also discuss how the EU can prepare for the different possible scenarios as of 2021.

The future relationship with the UK – why is it important?
On 1 February 2020 the United Kingdom left the EU. On 1 January 2021 the transition period also ends as stipulated in the withdrawal agreement. After almost 50 years, the UK will no longer be part of the EU single market or the customs union. Because of the connections that have been established over this period, the EU would like to agree on a comprehensive partnership with the UK. "The wide spectrum of relations […] indicate that an agreement is in the best interests of all parties," stressed the Chancellor this week. "The EU stands united in its determination to attempt to come to an agreement in the short time that remains."

Status report on vaccine development

On Friday, the heads of state and government will be discussing the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic. In talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen they will focus on progress made in stepping up coordination among EU states as well as on developing and distributing a vaccine.

Climate Target Plan on the agenda

The leaders also intend to deliberate on climate policy. They will firstly be discussing progress made towards achieving the EU’s goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050. Secondly, an initial orientation debate will look at the Commission’s Climate Target Plan for 2030, in particular the higher emissions reduction targets and the additional steps this will entail. 

A common EU climate policy – why is it important?
Germany can only really influence the global climate situation to any extent in and with the EU. The European Green Deal intends to make the EU the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050. This policy must be advanced and shaped together by member states. Chancellor Angela Merkel is also convinced that "a global solution to climate change is only possible if Europe acts as a trailblazer on climate action."

Relations with Africa

In the field of external relations, the European Council will discuss EU-Africa relations. The leaders will discuss in particular how a forward-looking common agenda can be developed – especially in the face of the pandemic.

On the one hand it will be a question of solidarity and cooperation in addressing the pandemic. On the other, closer cooperation with African partners will be discussed, in order to foster sustainable economic development and investment.

Moreover, they will be discussing how the EU can support African efforts in other areas, including peace, security, good governance, human rights and cooperation on mobility and migration.

A common EU-Africa policy – why is it important? 
Africa and Europe are neighbours, linked by more than just geography. The EU has a major interest in seeing the 54 states of Africa develop well. As the Chancellor put it, it is about "seeing Africa as the continent of the future and putting relations on the basis of partnership." 

Other issues

The heads of state and government will also be discussing topical external policy matters. Since the OPCW published its report, it will again look at the case of Alexei Navalny and the consequences thereof. The current situation in the Eastern Mediterranean will again be on the agenda.