Referring to the tough negotiations among the EU Heads of State and Government on climate change, the new President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said that in the case of some decisions imagination was needed but without losing the compass. The former Belgian Prime Minister, who has taken over from Donald Tusk, chaired his first Council meeting yesterday and today. Born in Namur in 1975, from 2006 to 2014 he was mayor of Wavre near Brussels. He commented that as mayor he had learned to keep his feet on the ground and to set the right priorities. That was especially important during the EU Council meeting yesterday: for only after lengthy negotiations that went on late into the night did the member states commit to climate neutrality by 2050. Poland was granted an exemption and the Council will discuss this issue again in six months’ time.
Chancellor Merkel said that, on the whole, great progress had been made. She added that this marked a strong commitment by the European Council to radically changing our energy policy in order to achieve climate neutrality and thus a transformation towards an environmentally sound economy. Germany supports the Green Deal which Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented to the European Parliament on Wednesday. In order to achieve climate neutrality, a complete overhaul of the energy supply, industry, transport and agriculture is necessary.
Conference on the Future of Europe
What role should the EU play in the world? What shape might European defence take? Should the parties have transnational lists at the next European elections? Ursula von der Leyen would like to discuss these questions at the Conference on the Future of Europe. Ordinary citizens are to play a major role in this two-year consultation process. Following the broad support it received in the European Parliament, the Heads of State and Government decided at the Council meeting to charge the new Council President, Charles Michel, with drawing up his own proposal on the conference. A key basis for the discussions is the European Strategic Agenda adopted in May 2019. Croatia, which takes over the EU Council Presidency on 1 January, has been asked to put forward concrete proposals.
EU budget and Brexit
The third key mandate given to Charles Michel by the member states during the Council meeting was for the budget. They called on the Belgian to take the negotiations forward with the aim of reaching a final agreement on the next Multiannual Financial Framework. With the UK’s departure, the EU will lose a major net contributor. Germany is leading the negotiations on the basis of 1 percent of the EU27’s GDP.
Following Boris Johnson’s election victory, the Council called for a swift ratification and implementation of the negotiated agreement. The Heads of State and Government want to continue to have the “closest possible relationship” with the UK. This should be based on a “balance of rights and obligations”. Foreign Minister Maas commented today:
We now have clarity about the way ahead for the UK. It is high time we focused on the future and created a close and fair relationship with the UK. We want the UK to remain a close partner, both economically and in the sphere of foreign and security policy.