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Remarks by President Charles Michel after the European Council meeting on 15 and 16 October 2020

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Raad, gepubliceerd op vrijdag 16 oktober 2020.

Yesterday, we had a very long and intense debate on COVID-19. We considered that the situation is unprecedented and very serious. And that is why we are convinced that it is necessary to make more progress in order to coordinate more, to cooperate more between the Member States, especially on tracing, testing, on quarantine and on vaccines. We agreed that on a regular basis, at the level of the European Council, we will continue to tackle this important topic in order to try to be more committed and to make more progress.

We also had yesterday evening the opportunity to tackle climate change. This was an orientation debate in preparation of our meeting in December. We feel more and more support in order to increase our goal for 2030. This is an important step towards 2050. You remember that we have agreed, about one year ago, to make Europe the first continent with climate neutrality, it is our common goal. Of course, the important question is and will be how we can get the target together. And that is why we need to continue to prepare the debate in December. And it's why with the European Commission and with the Member States, we will work very closely and very hard in order to see how it's possible to take into consideration, for example, the different starting points in the different Member States, but also different national circumstances. This is a question of ambition. It's also a question of solidarity between the Member States. Today we had the opportunity to have a strategic debate on Africa, in preparation of our meeting with the African leaders, with the African Union. On 9th December, we will have a strategic meeting with African leaders in order to deepen, but also to renew the partnership with Africa.

As far as relations with Africa are concerned, we are convinced that we must place more emphasis on support for investment, more emphasis on a partnership of mutual interest, more emphasis, too, on support for infrastructure, which will require us to develop a partnership to deal with issues of funding. It is in this context that we discussed African countries’ debt and that we shall continue to do so with our African partners within the relevant frameworks, while aiming for a consistent approach to the matter at European level.

This is all the more important against the backdrop of the fight against COVID-19. This fight is putting health systems under strain. There is a need to strengthen those health systems, and care systems, but also to focus on sustainable development, on development which helps to bring about improvements in living conditions and care, and to ensure that we are truly able to move forward together. Thanks to this partnership with a continent with which we believe we should have a natural alliance, for geographical, historical and also cultural reasons.

Finally, we had the opportunity to address and take stock of some international issues. For several of them, I refer to the written conclusions. Concerning the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, we deplore Turkey’s unilateral actions and provocations. We reaffirmed the conclusions we approved two weeks ago at the last European Council. We also took stock of other subjects, such as Belarus and the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, for instance.

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