At the end of the European Council meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on both the United Kingdom and the European Union to embrace compromise. “Everyone has their principles, but there is still scope for compromise,” said the Chancellor, looking to the future relationship with the UK after Brexit. The focus is now on negotiations, she declared. She is convinced that is would be better for both sides “if we reach an agreement”. But, she added, we also have to be prepared for a no-deal Brexit.

Exit statement by Chancellor Angela Merkel after the first day of the European Council 15 October, 2020

Exchange of views on the Climate Target Plan

The heads of state and government discussed progress on realising the EU’s goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. They also looked at the European Commission’s proposal to reduce emissions by at least 55% of 1990 levels by 2030. There is a high level of readiness to take this path, said the Chancellor, but there is still a long way to go. “Our schedule is absolutely clear. At the European Council meeting in December, we want to have a decision on the 2030 CO2 reduction target. For the German side, I have stressed once again that we fully support the Commission’s proposed target of a 55% reduction in emissions,” said Angela Merkel.

Closer cooperation to fight the pandemic

The European Council looked at the latest epidemiological situation. In view of the rising numbers of new cases throughout Europe, the heads of state and government agreed to step up cooperation to combat the pandemic. The Conclusions state that coordination is to be improved on quarantine regulations, cross-border contact tracing, testing strategies, building vaccination capacities and travel restrictions.

Angela Merkel said that, as winter approaches, dealing with the pandemic is a major challenge for all EU leaders. This means we must reduce contacts so that the contract tracing system can work. This is the only way to address the pandemic and save as many lives as possible. “Since there are many aspects to this, we agreed that we will exchange views regularly in video conferences,” said the Chancellor.

Because of the pandemic, the informal meeting scheduled for November in Berlin cannot take place. “I think this is an important message as we look at ways of reducing contacts.”

Financial negotiations at a critical stage

At the start of the meeting on Thursday, the heads of state and government met with David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament to discuss the multiannual financial framework and the NextGeneration EU recovery fund, which the heads of state and government approved in July. Germany, as the nation holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, is currently negotiating these with the European Parliament.

“We have made it clear to the Parliament that we need swift progress on the multiannual financial framework in particular,” said the Chancellor.

The financial framework for the next seven years is closely linked to the recovery fund and the own resources decisions that the national parliaments must pass. “The European Council is also ready to negotiate,” said Angela Merkel. The aim is to reach an agreement within the next few weeks.

Relations with Africa

On Friday, external policy matters were also on the agenda, in particular the strategic partnership with Africa. The heads of state and government also discussed how, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, a forward-looking agenda can be developed.

“We want to lift relations with Africa to a new strategic level. I think, in view of the way Africa has been hit by the pandemic and the economic consequences thereof, it is an important and indispensable signal that at times like this we don’t think only of ourselves, but that we are also thinking of our African neighbours,” said the Chancellor.

The evening before the European Council meeting in December, the leaders intend to meet with selected African representatives. Because of the pandemic there can be no full EU-Africa meeting at present.

Developing EU-Turkey relations in the interests of both sides

The leaders also discussed the current situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. They agreed that the recent unilateral actions of Turkey have worsened tensions rather than de-escalating the situation. The Chancellor expressed her regret. She said that it is important to work on the positive aspects. “It is important to us that we are able to take the path we had agreed on with Turkey, because it is in the best interests of both sides to develop the relationship between the EU and Turkey.”