Video conference of Members of the European Council
European affairs ministers prepared the informal video conference of Members of the European Council on 25-26 February 2021. EU leaders will discuss the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, preparedness for health threats, security and defence, and relations with the Southern Neighbourhood.
COVID-19 and Health
EU leaders will take stock of the epidemiological situation. They will continue working to coordinate the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including on the authorisation, production and rollout of vaccines and the movement of persons.
Leaders will have an exchange of views on strengthening the EU’s resilience to health threats.
Leaders will also discuss ways to reinforce international health cooperation.
Security and defence
Leaders will hold a strategic debate on European security and defence policy.
EU leaders will review ongoing initiatives on investment in defence, capability development and operational readiness. They will also discuss work to increase the EU’s resilience, in particular against cyberattacks and hybrid threats.
Leaders will hold a strategic discussion on EU relations with the Southern Neighbourhood. In December 2020, the European Council adopted conclusions on this partnership. Leaders emphasised at the time that a democratic, more stable, greener and more prosperous Southern Neighbourhood is a strategic priority for the EU.
Conference on the Future of Europe
Ministers took stock of the interinstitutional discussions on the Conference on the Future of Europe.
We need the Conference on the Future of Europe to be an inclusive debate between the member states and the European citizens on what is needed to build our Union together. We need it to be focused on the wishes and anxieties of citizens rather than on the EU institutions. As Presidency of the Council, we will continue to do everything we can to launch the Conference as soon as possible.
Ana Paula Zacarias, Secretary of State for European Affairs of Portugal
The Presidency informed ministers about the latest talks with the other EU institutions, a revised Council position having been agreed on 3 February.
This revised position includes a proposal for a collegial presidency of the three institutions, represented at the highest level by the Council presidency, the President of the Commission and the President of the Parliament, acting as joint chair.
Under the proposal, there would also be an executive board composed of representatives from the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission, on an equal footing.
The Conference is expected to become operational this year and to conclude and deliver outcomes in the Spring of 2022.
European democracy action plan
Ministers exchanged views on the European democracy action plan, following an initial presentation by the European Commission on 8 December 2020.
The Commission adopted this initiative on 3 December 2020 with the aim of ensuring that citizens are able to participate in the democratic system through informed decision-making free from unlawful interference and manipulation.
European affairs ministers assessed the state of play of EU-UK relations for the first time since the signature of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) in December 2020.
The EU and the UK agreed, on 24 December 2020, to provisionally apply the TCA and the Security of Information Agreement as of 1 January 2021, pending the EU ratification process and the official entry into force.
The EU decided last week to request an extension until 30 April 2021 to allow sufficient time to complete the legal-linguistic revision of the agreement in all 24 languages, prior to its scrutiny by the Council and the European Parliament. In order to change the end date of the provisional application, a decision needs to be taken jointly in the EU-UK Partnership Council. Once the new date is agreed, the Council will ask the European Parliament for its consent. When this has been granted, the Council will then be able to proceed to the final step, adopting the decision on the conclusion of the TCA.
-23 February 2021