Overshadowed by COVID, EU Summit Ends in Brussels
Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, was the latest official to prematurely leave the EU summit in Brussels due to coronavirus fears, as the bloc’s meeting wrapped Friday.
She said it was a “precautionary measure,” the AP reported.
Her departure come a day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen left because a staffer tested positive.
Previously, the EU’s top diplomat and Josep Borrell and the commissioner for humanitarian aid, Janez Lenarcic, self-quarantined after they reportedly came into contact with people who tested positive.
The high-profile departures come against a backdrop of what many are calling a second wave of the virus roiling the continent.
On Thursday, EU leaders signed a statement calling for more cooperation among EU member states and the European Commission, including better contact tracing and testing strategies, according to Euronews.
The resurging virus also has led to the cancelation of a Nov. 16 EU meeting to discuss China policy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday.
The so-called “summit of gloom,” had hoped to tackle a series of thorny issues, from the bloc’s future trading relationship with post-Brexit Britain to an ambitious climate action plan to reduce carbon emissions and achieve “climate neutrality” by 2050.
Talks with Britain stalled Thursday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying Friday he would pursue a no-deal Brexit if the EU did not change its stance.
“Unless there’s a fundamental change of approach, we’re going to go to the Australia solution, and we should do it with great confidence,” Johnson said, according to Reuters, after talks failed ahead of his self-imposed Oct. 15 deadline.
The “Australia solution” basically means the two parties would trade without a formal deal.
According to the AP, the EU says Britain wants to keep the benefits of EU membership without following the bloc’s rules. Britain says it’s puzzled it can’t get a quick free trade deal like the one made a few years ago between the EU and Canada.
On climate change, EU leaders failed to reach an agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and instead said they’d “return to the issue” in December, Reuters reported.
The EU proposed to cut emissions by 55% by 2030 as long as the target applied collectively to the whole EU and did not require all countries to meet the objective.