Remarks by President Charles Michel following the second day of the special meeting of the European Council

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Raad i, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 25 mei 2021.

Today we had two key items on the agenda. The first was the COVID situation and the second was the issue of climate change and our ambitions in that area.

On the first item, we were able to express cautious optimism. We believe that we are making progress on vaccination everywhere in Europe. At the same time, we are only too well aware that we must remain vigilant and closely monitor virus mutations and variants.

The second point which we discussed today is linked to the agreement reached with the European Parliament last week on the EU Digital Certificate. We welcome the agreement reached. We are also very pleased that we can speed up the process of revising the recommendation on travel within the European Union. We have set mid-June as the target for adapting this recommendation so that we will gradually be able to return to free movement within the European Union.

Lastly, the third point was international solidarity. At the very beginning of this pandemic, at the European Council's first meeting on this subject, we immediately understood that the only way we could prevail over this pandemic was by all working together in the context of international cooperation. This belief paved the way for the first initiatives to finance research into vaccine development. It also led to the launch of the COVAX initiative and guided the decision taken within the European Union to continue to export doses manufactured in Europe. On average, 50% of the doses manufactured every month have been exported, to over forty countries worldwide.

We were also able to decide officially on the ambition to put in place a mechanism to donate, by the end of the year, at least 100 million doses. The first indications from the member states are that we will most probably go beyond that capacity.

Lastly, we support the work done with the Italian presidency, with the Commission's commitment, in connection with the G20 last week, and in particular the major initiative announced by the Commission: provision of financing to boost manufacturing capacity in the pharmaceutical sector, including for vaccines, on the African continent. Special attention must also be paid to Latin America. Several colleagues seated around the table pointed to the need to be engaged in this part of the world as well.

One last point: as I speak, meetings are being held under the auspices of the WHO in relation to the debate on progressing to the negotiation of a treaty on pandemics. And we are hopeful that, in the coming hours, another milestone will be reached in the bid to engage the international community in the multilateral framework, so that together we can learn the lessons from this crisis which is hitting the world, in an effort to take decisions that will make us more robust, stronger, more resilient, better equipped to avert future pandemics and to cooperate better when they occur.

The second topic on the agenda today was climate change. We prepared this European Council. We had a lot of consultations before. All the delegations expressed their priorities, concerns - legitimate concerns - in order to take into consideration this process and the responsibility of the Commission, who will put on the table concrete legislative proposals in the next week.

We trust the Commission to take this into account. We had important discussions on different topics: ETS, effort sharing, carbon adjustment mechanism and different starting points in the different countries. We reaffirmed our common goals, which are ambitious - climate neutrality by 2050 - but also the decisions that we took in December last year, decreasing our emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

This is a very complex debate, with many areas which are interconnected. It's important to have a global vision. It's also important to take into consideration the impact assessment for the different member states. You can be certain that we will continue to work a lot with the member states, with the Commission, and with the European Parliament.

It's a process and, in preparation for COP26 in Glasgow, we hope it will be possible for the European Union to continue to play a leading role and to be concrete in order to make progress.

We also agreed that we will come back to this matter at a future European Council meeting once the Commission has tabled its legislative proposals.

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