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Climate, COVID-19 and the long-term budget at the European Council
The climate, COVID-19 and the long-term EU budget were among the issues in focus when Prime Minister Stefan Löfven met with his head of state and government colleagues at the European Council in Brussels on 10–11 December. The EU leaders also considered a number of foreign policy issues and the EU’s future relationship with the UK.
Coordination of the COVID-19 response
The EU leaders held a general discussion about the COVID-19 situation in the Member States.
“Firstly, we discussed the pandemic situation as it exists in the Member States and it is quite clear that it is serious in many places. However, there is naturally light at the end of the tunnel in the shape of the vaccines. There is broad consensus among the EU leaders on the importance that EU cooperation has had for gaining access to vaccines so quickly. This also strengthens our conviction to continue cooperating on COVID-19,” said Mr Löfven after the summit.
EU climate targets for 2030
The EU must review its climate targets for the next few years to become climate-neutral by 2050. At the Summit, the heads of state and government decided on tighter climate targets for 2030.
“There were very long and at times difficult discussions on the climate. All science shows that we must do more here and now – time is quite simply running out. EU countries must actively drive the climate transition. It was therefore important that we could agree on a tighter target for 2030, namely a reduction of at least 55 per cent. By being at the forefront of the climate transition, the EU’s competitiveness is also strengthened, with more jobs in Sweden and the EU as a whole,” Mr Löfven also said.
The long-term EU budget
“Yesterday, we also agreed on the final part of the long-term budget. Sweden has long advocated that there must be a link between the payment of funds on the one hand and the rule of law on the other. When countries fail to respect the EU’s fundamental values, there must be consequences in terms of how much support they are still eligible to receive from the EU budget. Now that the German Presidency has proposed an explanatory statement, we finally have such a mechanism in place,” said Mr Löfven.
At the end of July, EU heads of state and government agreed on a proposal for a new long-term budget for the EU, as well as a recovery package. Since the summer, negotiations on the long-term budget have been ongoing and have been concluded with the European Parliament. Some EU Member States have had difficulty approving the agreement as payments from the EU budget are linked to the rule of law for the first time.
“This has been absolutely vital to ensure that the agreement between the European Council and the European Parliament remains in place. And it does. I would like to take this opportunity to say that the German Presidency, led by Angela Merkel, has done a very good job of getting this over the line without compromising on the rule of law,” added Mr Löfven.
Future relations with the UK
Negotiations between the EU and the UK have been intense in recent weeks. Outstanding issues include the formulation of regulations for a level playing field and agreement on fishing, as well as the formulation of regulations for dispute settlement.
At the Summit, the EU leaders were given a very brief account of the negotiations on the future relationship with the UK by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
Turkey and Russia
"Turkey was also discussed and it was noted that developments there have continued in the wrong direction during the autumn. It was agreed for preparations to be made to extend the sanctions already in place," Mr Löfven said.
"Finally, the green light was given to again extend the sanctions against Russia. It is extremely important that the EU continues to show unity on this issue."
On Friday, a Euro Summit also took place in an extended format whereby EU Member States outside the euro area were also welcome. The heads of state and government discussed the banking union and the capital markets union.