European Council addressed number of foreign policy issues

Covid-19, vaccines and climate change dominate the agenda on Tuesday

Photo: EU Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel during the press conference on Tuesday early morning.

The first day of the special EU summit, which was accompanied by the incessant Brussels rain showers, as expected ended after midnight. The whole session was dedicated to foreign policy issues and the first item on the agenda was the forced landing of the Ryanair flight in Belarus.

EUCO President Charles Michel said at a press conference after the meeting that this event is “unacceptable, shocking and scandalous” and is a threat against the safety of civil aviation.

We will not tolerate that they play “Russian roulette” with the lives of innocent civilians, he said adding that mandate was given to the Council to take sanctions, including economic ones.

The detained journalist Pratasevich and his girl friend Sapega must be released, Michel also said.

On the same subject, Ursula von der Leyen underscored that EUCO leaders “acted forcefully in response to the outrageous actions of the Belarus regime”.

We are closing our airspace to planes from Belarus and call on EU airlines not to fly over the country, she said noting that further economic sanctions will be presented soon.

Von der Leyen explained as well that these sanctions will cover individuals involved in this hijacking, businesses that finance the regime and the aviation sector. We will keep pressure on the regime until it respects the freedom of opinion and of the media, she urged.

Concerning the next topic on the agenda, Michel said that the leaders confirmed the five guiding principles for EU relations with Russia. “We have decided to ask the Commission and the High Representative to present a report with policy options so that the EUCO to revert to the matter in June and to provide clear political orientations.” He also explained that the European Council expressed its solidarity with the Czech Republic and Eastern partners.

On the EU-Russia relations, the EC President stated that “the EU has been consistent in its approach towards Russia, who continues to challenge our interests and values”. The Commission will present a report at the June EUCO on the state of our relations with Russia, she added.

Next on the leaders’ agenda was a discussion on  EU-UK relations. Von der Leyen recalled that this was the first discussion on EU-UK relations since the United Kingdom became a third country.

“Good to see that leaders reiterated unity and support to solving issues based on the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and Protocol,” she stressed.

According to her, the Protocol is the only solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland. EC President outlined that it is the EU common duty with the UK to do “whatever we can” to reduce tensions there. She said that the EU is exploring practical solutions to help minimise disruption to economic life in Northern Ireland.

Talking about the new dealings with the UK, Michel pointed out that “we want to have a fruitful and close relationship, but we also like to have a fair implementation in letter and spirit of the agreement we reached with the UK”.

We are willing to use the legal instruments on our disposal to ensure that we guarantee the integrity of the Single market, he opined.

The leaders welcomed the ceasefire in the Middle East that should bring an end to the violence. “The EU will continue to work with international partners to restart a political process and reiterates its firm commitment to the two-state solution,” read the conclusions on the item.

The agenda on Tuesday is dominated by discussions on Covid-19, vaccines and climate change.

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