We want a stronger Europe, to shape a better world. Less dependence, more influence. That's why our last European Council focused on strengthening Europe. Both within our borders, and beyond our borders. We discussed how to reinforce our common house — strategic autonomy and open economies are the centrepiece. We also addressed major foreign affairs issues and took key decisions.
We had a comprehensive debate on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and our relationship with Turkey. A more stable and predictable Eastern Mediterranean region is in our strategic interest. And we are united towards Turkey. We have agreed on a two-track approach: firmness and readiness to engage.
EU solidarity with Cyprus and Greece is unwavering. Sovereignty and sovereign rights must be respected. We welcomed the start of a confidence building dialogue between Greece and Turkey. We strongly condemn violations of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus. More steps are needed in that direction.
We call on Turkey to accept the invitation by Cyprus to engage in dialogue to settle all maritime-related disputes. And we support the speedy resumption of UN-led negotiations and remain fully committed to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework.
Many issues need to be discussed, like the sharing of revenue from hydrocarbons. In case of renewed unilateral actions or provocations in breach of international law, we will use all the instruments at our disposal to defend our interests and those of our Member States. But of course, our preference is to engage in a positive EU-Turkey agenda with a focus on, for instance: the modernisation of the Customs Union and trade facilitation, people to people contacts, High level dialogues and continued cooperation on migration issues.
It's not only about Turkey. There are conflicts, disputes and many overlapping challenges across the Eastern Mediterranean. That's why I have proposed a Multilateral Conference on the Eastern Mediterranean. And we call for a Multilateral Conference on the Eastern Mediterranean and invite the High Representative to engage in talks about its organisation. This Conference could address issues that need multilateral solutions, including maritime delimitation, security, energy, migration and economic cooperation.
On Belarus, our goals are clear: first, to end the repression and the violence against the opposition and the population. Second, to allow the people of Belarus to decide on their future without interference. This means an inclusive national dialogue, which could be facilitated by the OSCE. And those responsible for the violence must be held to account. We therefore took the decision on sanctions, which was immediately implemented.
We condemn the assassination attempt on Alexei Navalny with a military chemical nerve agent. And we call on the Russian authorities to fully cooperate with the OPCW to ensure an impartial international investigation to bring those responsible to justice. We will revert to this issue in two weeks.
Concerning Nagorno-Karabakh, we call for a cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peaceful negotiations. External interference, military in particular, is unacceptable
We now have a clear strategy towards China. We want to remain engaged with China. China is a major partner in addressing global challenges, like climate change and Covid-19. We welcome China's recent commitment to carbon neutrality by 2060. We have encouraged China to take this path. China is also a key trading partner but we want a more balanced relationship, with a level playing field, and greater reciprocity. We expect our negotiations on an Investment Agreement to conclude successfully by the end of this year. On human rights, we will not paper over our differences. Especially the rights of minorities and the rule of law, like in Hong Kong.
Ladies and gentlemen, this European Council was also an opportunity to discuss the European Union’s strategic autonomy as it relates to an open economy.
It was a chance to reaffirm our ambition to work together not only to repair the damage suffered by the internal market during the COVID-19 crisis, but also and above all to improve the functioning of the internal market, which is a key element at the heart of the European project.
It was an opportunity to set out a bold, ambitious approach on the digital front, as we have already done regarding climate. These two major transitions will be fundamental levers in the successful transformation of the economic and social project at European level.
We want to be a digital leader. We want to speed up the necessary changes. This implies investment and providing ourselves with the necessary means, in particular through the regulatory powers inspired by our fundamental values.
This is not just about economics. It is also about values and the type of digital model we want. And that is why we are totally convinced that being more resilient, being better placed to guide our own destiny, in line with our commitment to multilateralism and open economies, our ambition of a stronger Europe for a fairer, more committed world, is the path we believe in.
We also had the chance to address the issue of COVID-19 and the need to improve cooperation between Member States. Because, as we have seen, be it in relation to testing, to rules on travel or to quarantines, there is room to improve cooperation and coordination between the Member States. We have made plans to return to this topic on a regular basis and to ask both the Commission and the Member States through the Council of the European Union to remain fully engaged.
The issue of vaccines was also discussed. The Commission had the opportunity to present a precise state of play detailing the progress made on the decisions taken to ensure that once vaccines are available, they can be made available in a fair and equal way in Europe. And to ensure that we can clarify the issues surrounding distribution and priorities, so that we can fully assume our international responsibilities. Let us consider this vaccine a common good. Because this challenge is a global challenge, and it is not simply about the European Union coping with it alone. We must also support our partners to make progress on this matter.
A few final words. We are in an institutional democratic process. Ensuring that in the coming years, through the next multiannual budget and the special recovery fund and using the European Union’s ability as a political and democratic body to equip itself with the necessary means to take action to implement what we believe in, we shall continue discussions, in good faith and with mutual respect, to work and negotiate with you, the Parliament. To ensure we are able, as soon as possible I hope, to make decisions, identify solutions, move forward and make sure we can assume our responsibilities and meet the expectations of the 450 million European citizens, as well as the expectations of others, elsewhere in the world, who believe that this European project is valuable, necessary and effective.
Those, Mr President, dear colleagues, are the messages I wish to share with you today following the last European Council.