An important topic on the first day of the summit was relations with Turkey and the situation in the eastern Mediterranean. German Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear at the outset of the summit: “We are committed to defusing tensions peacefully”.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the meeting of EU heads of state and government is being held under strict hygiene requirements and security measures. It was postponed by a week because the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, was in quarantine after a member of his team tested positive for COVID-19.

Day one: China and the Mediterranean region in focus

German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the Special European Council in Brussels

On Thursday, the EU heads of state and government discussed foreign policy issues. The talks tackled two regional focal points: China and the Mediterranean region.

In the afternoon working session, EU-China relations were debated. This served as a follow-up on talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the EU-China Videoconference on 14 September. The primary focus of discussions was on future cooperation, including issues related to combating the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, as well as economic and trade issues.

At the end of the session, an array of current topics were discussed: the situation in Belarus, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and the outbreak of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

At dinner, the situation in the eastern Mediterranean region and strategic relations with Turkey were discussed; dialogue with Turkey and ways to de-escalate and encourage solutions for disputed issues took centre stage.

The relationship with Turkey is “a very complex one”, Chancellor Merkel said before the beginning of the meeting. Even so, “the EU has a great interest in developing a constructive relationship with Turkey despite all the difficulties.”

Day two: The economy in focus

On Friday, the European Council is expected to tackle the three economic policy issues which were on the agenda of the cancelled European Council meeting in March: the single market, industrial policy and digital transition.

First of all, they will discuss how the single market can be deepened and strengthened. The second topic is a more ambitious industrial policy, which boosts the global competitiveness of EU industry and strengthens its resilience. Thirdly, it should be determined how the digital transition can be accelerated, and more digital sovereignty achieved. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the aspects of recovery, resilience and competitiveness should receive increasing consideration for all three topics.

At the end of the working session, there will be a brief discussion about the current status of the negotiations for the agreement with the United Kingdom on future relations.