The debate on Russia was on the agenda on 24 June 2021
EU leaders met in Brussels for a two-day summit. On 24 June they discussed COVID-19, migration and external relations, including Turkey and Russia. They also met UN Secretary-General António Guterres over lunch. In the evening, they discussed the EU fundamental value of LGBTIQ non-discrimination. On 25 June economic recovery and the challenges for the euro area were on the agenda.
At the end of the meeting, President Charles Michel presented the Indicative Leaders’ Agenda 2021-2022. It is a work programme for the European Council that aims to respond to the challenges faced by EU countries, businesses and citizens.
The European Council welcomed the good progress on vaccination and the overall improvement in the epidemiological situation. They also stressed the need to continue vaccination efforts and be vigilant and coordinated, particularly in developments such as the emergence and spread of variants of concern.
EU leaders also acknowledged the importance of the agreements reached on the EU digital COVID certificate and on the revision of the two Council recommendations on travel within the EU and on non-essential travel into the EU. EU countries will apply them in a manner that will help achieve the full return to free movement as soon as the public health situation allows.
Considering the global situation, the European Council reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to global solidarity in response to the pandemic. EU leaders agreed to take forward ongoing work to help boost global production of and universal access to COVID-19 vaccines. They also highlighted that all producing countries and manufacturers should actively contribute to efforts to increase worldwide supply of COVID-19 vaccines, raw materials, treatments and therapeutics, and coordinate action in case of bottlenecks in supply and distribution.
EU leaders also welcomed the decision adopted by the 74th World Health Assembly to set up a special session in November 2021 to discuss a Framework Convention on Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The EU will continue working towards an international treaty on pandemics.
Finally, the European Council discussed the initial lessons that can be learned from the pandemic on the basis of the report presented by the Commission on 15 June 2021. It invited the incoming Slovenian presidency to take work forward in the Council to enhance collective preparedness, response capability and resilience to future crises and to protect the functioning of the internal market.
The European Council discussed the migration situation on the various routes. While the measures taken by the EU and its member states have brought down the overall irregular flows in recent years, developments on some routes give rise to concern and require continued vigilance and urgent action.
EU leaders agreed that mutually beneficial partnerships and cooperation with countries of origin and transit will be intensified to prevent loss of life and to reduce pressure on European borders, as part of the EU’s external action.
This common approach should address all migratory routes and will:
- be pragmatic, flexible and tailor-made
- make use, as Team Europe, of all available instruments and incentives
- take place in close cooperation with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration
EU heads of state or government called on the European Commission and the High Representative, in cooperation with member states, to:
- immediately reinforce concrete actions with priority countries of origin and transit
- put forward action plans for priority countries of origin and transit in autumn 2021
They also invited the Commission to make the best possible use of at least 10% of the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), as well as funding under other relevant instruments for actions related to migration.
The European Council condemned any attempt by third countries to instrumentalise migrants for political purposes.
Leaders discussed the EU fundamental value of LGBTQI non-discrimination.
« We had a sincere and necessary debate on LGBTQI+ rights. Values go to the heart of the EU. It’s part of our very DNA. The primacy of EU law is a fundamental principle. »
Charles Michel, President of the European Council
The European Council recalled the EU’s strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the development of a cooperative relationship with Turkey. Leaders welcomed the de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean and highlighted the need to sustain it.
The European Council reiterated the EU’s readiness to engage with Turkey in a phased, proportionate and reversible manner to enhance cooperation in a number of areas of common interest, subject to the established conditionalities set out in March and in previous European Council conclusions.
EU leaders took note of the start of work at technical level concerning the mandate for the modernisation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union and recalled the need to address current difficulties in the implementation of the Customs Union. They also took note of the preparatory work for high-level dialogues with Turkey on issues such as migration, public health, climate, counterterrorism and regional issues.
The European Council called on the Commission to put forward proposals for the continuation of financing for Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other parts of the region.
Regarding Cyprus, the European Council recalled its previous conclusions and expressed its full commitment to the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions.
Rule of law and fundamental rights in Turkey remain a key concern.
“The targeting of political parties, human rights defenders and media represents major setbacks for human rights and runs counter to Turkey’s obligations to respect democracy, the rule of law and women’s rights.”
European Council conclusions
EU leaders confirmed their commitment to Libya’s stabilisation process under the auspices of the United Nations.
In line with its conclusions of 24 and 25 May 2021, the European Council discussed relations with Russia. The EU is committed to a united, long-term, and strategic European approach based on the five guiding principles.
“The European Council expects the Russian leadership to demonstrate a more constructive engagement and political commitment and stop actions against the EU and its member states, as well as against third countries.”
European Council conclusions
EU leaders called on Russia to fully assume its responsibility in ensuring the full implementation of the Minsk agreements as the key condition for any substantial change in the EU’s stance.
They also stressed the need for a firm and coordinated response by the EU and its member states to any further malign, illegal and disruptive activity by Russia. They invited the Commission and the High Representative to present options for additional restrictive measures, including economic sanctions.
The European Council stressed the need to further deepen and intensify political, economic and people-to-people ties and cooperation with the Eastern Partners and underlined its commitment to deepen relations with Central Asia.
Leaders reiterated the EU’s openness to a selective engagement with Russia in areas of EU interest. They invited the Commission and the High Representative to develop concrete options on topics such as climate and the environment, health, as well as selected issues of foreign and security policy and multilateral issues. In this context, the European Council will explore formats and conditionalities of dialogue with Russia.
EU leaders condemned the limitations on fundamental freedoms in Russia and the shrinking space for civil society. They also reiterated their support for all efforts to establish truth, justice and accountability for the victims of the downing of MH17 and their next of kin.
The European Council welcomed the timely implementation of the measures concerning Belarus, in line with its conclusions of 24 and 25 May 2021. Leaders repeated calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners, including Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega, and for an end to repression of civil society and independent media.
EU leaders reaffirmed their call on the Malian transition authorities to fully implement the Transition Charter. They reaffirmed the EU’s support to the G5 Sahel countries’ efforts to strengthen governance, the rule of law and the provision of public services in their territories.
The European Council condemned the ongoing atrocities, ethnic-based and sexual violence and other human rights violations in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. It welcomed the ongoing investigations to bring accountability and justice and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to all areas and the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces.
The European Council condemned recent malicious cyber activities against member states. It invited the Council to explore appropriate measures within the framework of the cyber diplomacy toolbox.
Leaders reviewed the state of play on the implementation of the EU’s Next Generation EU recovery plan. They welcomed the timely entry into force of the own resources decision, which enabled the European Commission to start borrowing to support an inclusive recovery and the green and digital transitions.
EU leaders underlined the importance of full and timely implementation of the national recovery and resilience plans while protecting the financial interest of the EU. They encouraged the Commission and the Council to take the work on the plans’ approval forward to enable member states to use the recovery funding to its full potential.
The heads of state or government welcomed the EU headline targets of the European Pillar of Social Rights action plan, in line with the Porto declaration.
They endorsed the draft Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area.
Leaders are looking forward to swift progress on global corporate tax reform on a consensual basis within the G20/OECD framework.
EU heads of state and government discussed the economic challenges for the euro area in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and reviewed progress on the banking union and capital markets union with the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Christine Lagarde, and the President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe.