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EU leaders met via video conference to take stock of the COVID-19 epidemiological situation. They also discussed transatlantic relations together with US President Joe Biden. The situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, relations with Russia, the single market, digital agenda and the international role of the euro were also on the agenda.

COVID-19

EU leaders committed to accelerating the production, delivery and deployment of vaccines. They underlined the importance of transparency and the use of export authorisations. They recognized the importance of global value chains and reaffirmed that companies must respect contractual delivery deadlines. They also confirmed the pro-rata population key for the allocation of vaccines.

“We invite the Committee of Permanent Representatives to address the issue of the speed of deliveries of vaccines when allocating the 10 million BioNTech-Pfizer accelerated doses in the second quarter of 2021 in a spirit of solidarity.” – Statement of the members of the European Council

As the epidemiological situation remains serious, and in the light of the challenges posed by new variants, EU leaders agreed that restrictions, including non-essential travel, must stay in place for the time being. They also stressed that the unhindered flow of goods and services within the single market must continue, including by making use of green lanes.

Looking ahead, EU leaders agreed that preparations should nevertheless start on a common approach to the gradual lifting of restrictions, to ensure that efforts are coordinated when the epidemiological situation allows for an easing of current measures. They called for legislative and technical work on COVID-19 interoperable digital certificates, based on the Commission proposal, to be taken forward as a matter of urgency.

EU leaders also discussed the contribution of the European Union to the global response to the pandemic. They agreed that the work on setting up a vaccine-sharing mechanism must be taken forward rapidly so as to complement and support COVAX’s leading role in ensuring universal access to, and deployment of, vaccines.

EU-US relations

Leaders discussed transatlantic relations together with US President Joe Biden, who joined the video conference from Washington.

“Let’s build on this friendship — to forge a new transatlantic mind-set. A strong basis for our renewed cooperation.” – Charles Michel, President of the European Council

Eastern Mediterranean

EU leaders recalled the strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey. They welcomed the recent de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean brought about by the discontinuation of illegal drilling activities, the resumption of bilateral talks between Greece and Turkey, and the forthcoming talks on the Cyprus question under the auspices of the United Nations.

If the current de-escalation is sustained and Turkey engages constructively, and subject to the conditionalities set in previous European Council conclusions, the EU is ready to engage with Turkey in a phased, proportionate and reversible manner to enhance cooperation and to take further decisions at the European Council meeting in June 2021.

Leaders called on Turkey to abstain from renewed provocation or action breaching international law. Otherwise, the EU is ready to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its member states as well as to uphold regional stability.

Russia

Leaders were informed about the latest developments in relations between the EU and Russia. They will hold a strategic debate at the next European Council meeting.

Single market, industrial policy, digital transformation and the economy

EU leaders underlined the importance of a strong and fully functioning single market and the need to boost the competitiveness and resilience of EU industry, including SMEs, to accelerate the green and digital transitions and to address strategic dependencies. The update of the European industrial strategy should take into account the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis and support the economic recovery.

Leaders stressed the need to enhance the EU’s digital sovereignty in a self-determined and open manner, and invited the Council to swiftly examine the Commission’s communication on the 2030 Digital Compass with a view to the preparation of the envisaged digital policy programme. In order to refine the EU’s policy approach, they called on the Commission to identify further systems of critical technologies and further strategic sectors, and to widen the EU’s toolbox for digital transformation.

“We want to work with our international partners to promote EU digital standards and develop global digital rules.” – Charles Michel, President of the European Council

EU leaders reiterated their commitment to reaching a consensus-based global solution on international digital taxation within the framework of the OECD by mid-2021. They confirmed, however, that the EU would be ready to move forward if the prospect of a global solution was not forthcoming. In that context, the leaders also referred to the Commission’s upcoming proposal on a digital levy, with a view to it being introduced by 1 January 2023 at the latest.

With regard to the Porto Social Summit on 7 May, the leaders stressed that no one must be left behind in the digital transition.

International role of the euro

The heads of state or government discussed the international role of the euro with the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Christine Lagarde, and the President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe.

EU leaders agreed on a statement where they expressed their support for strengthening the position of the euro on the global stage in order to enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy while preserving an open economy, contributing to the stability of the global financial system, and supporting European businesses and households.

 

Meeting information

  • 25 March 2021
  • 13:00

Preparatory documents

Press releases

25 March 2021, 22:05

25 March 2021, 21:00

25 March 2021, 09:55

23 March 2021, 21:15

 

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