Agreement on the budget and climate action

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European Council meeting in Brussels Agreement on the budget and climate action

At the last European Council meeting during Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the heads of state or government of the 27 EU member states have taken important decisions. Together, they set an ambitious new climate target. By 2030, greenhouse gas emissions are to be cut by a minimum of 55 per cent of the 1990 levels. They had already agreed on the multiannual financial framework and the recovery fund.

4 min reading time

The photo shows Angela Merkel, Charles Michel and Emmanuel Macron.

Chancellor Angela Merkel in discussion with Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Photo: Bundesregierung/Steffen Kugler

EU budget – commitment to the rule of law

"I am very relieved," stressed the Chancellor at the press conference following the meeting. We really did manage to pull together to transfer the budget and the recovery fund along with the conditionality mechanism to the Parliament. "It was a huge amount of work," declared Angela Merkel.

For the first time, a commitment to the rule of law and a mechanism to protect the budget have been anchored in the new Multiannual Financial Framework. In the event of violations, the European Commission would be able to submit concrete proposals for action, which the Council could then confirm by qualified majority. At first, Poland and Hungary did not want to approve these new rules.

Unanimous agreement – 55% emission reduction target by 2030

In an overnight session, the EU heads of state or government agreed unanimously to adopt a stricter climate target for the next ten years. By 2030 greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced by at least 55 per cent of the 1990 levels. The current target is 40 per cent. The European Commission had proposed this new climate target.

The Chancellor declared herself satisfied with what had been achieved. On Friday, following the European Council meeting, she said that the commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent, coming one day before the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit, is a "very, very important outcome". "It was worth missing a night’s sleep over," she added. The final EU target must still be negotiated with the European Parliament.

Joint action to address the pandemic

On the first day of the summit, EU heads of state and government also took stock of where we stand in Europe with respect to the pandemic. Discussions centred on joint coordination efforts, especially with regard to possible COVID-19 vaccines and tests.

The Chancellor believes that the European Commission has helped better coordinate joint action to address the pandemic. She advocated a higher profile role for the EU in the field of health. "We should work towards a European health union," she said.

Relations with Turkey

The heads of state and government addressed several external policy issues. The situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and relations with Turkey were discussed in most depth. The Council agreed to place responsible individuals and companies on the EU sanctions list. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has been asked to submit a report and options on how to proceed by March. Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she had hoped "to make relations with Turkey more constructive" during Germany’s Presidency. The EU will continue to reach out to Turkey, she declared.

Taking action against unlawful online content

The heads of state and government addressed other matters of external policy. To mark the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process, the European Council engaged in a strategic discussion of the Southern Neighbourhood. It announced that a new agenda for the Mediterranean region would be developed.

Future relations with the United States of America, following the presidential elections, were also on the agenda. And the Council resolved to extend EU sanctions on Russia for another six months.

The European Council also looked at security issues, in particular the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. In the view of the European Council, it is particularly important to take action against unlawful online content.

A Euro Summit met in what is termed the inclusive format, i.e. with all 27 EU member states. The heads of state and government discussed in particular the banking union and the capital markets union.

Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union comes to a close

It is customary to hold a final press conference following the last regular European Council meeting of a Presidency. The Chancellor thanked the President of the European Council Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. "I believe we were a good team to tackle the big tasks we had on the agenda during the German Presidency of the Council."

On 1 January 2021 Portugal will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Angela Merkel wished the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa all the best. "We have left a bit of work," she said and added, "I can tell you that this Presidency of the Council is one we enjoyed, although much of what we had planned of course couldn’t actually happen." Germany would have liked to stage an EU-China summit for instance. "But that isn’t to say that we had nothing to do; we had a lot of work with corona."