The heads of state and government of the European Union member states, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, will gather in Brussels on Thursday for the last EU summit of the year. A marathon session is expected, as the COVID-19 outbreak, rising energy prices, and migratory pressures at the external borders of Europe, including Ukraine and Belarus, will be on the table, as per the invitation from Charles Michel, the head of the European Council.
The EU will also continue its push for people to get vaccinated.
“We must do everything we can to overcome the fears of those who do not get vaccinated and to stop the spread of false news,” Michel said in his letter of invitation.
Leaders will certainly share their experiences with the rapid spread of the new virus variant, the omicron, but will also discuss the validity of EU Covid passports in light of the new variants. It must be noted that health authorities have said the Omicron variant may be more easily spread, but that symptoms appear to be milder than other variants. Only one death has been recorded in Britain related to the variant and symptoms appear to be mild.
It is worth remembering that a few weeks ago, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, was also taking part in the meeting, spoke that, in her personal opinion, the issue of compulsory vaccination should also be discussed at the European level.
Mandatory vaccination, however, will not be on the agenda.
The letter of invitation distribute to EU leaders is also succinct about the summit’s other burning issue: migration, especially regarding the EU’s response to the Minsk-led organized illegal migration operation. As the president of the EU Council writes, leaders in Brussels will have the opportunity to examine the external dimension of immigration, such as the effectiveness of migration agreements with third countries.
At their October summit, leaders also had a heated debate on rising inflation, which is likely to continue in the coming months, at least until spring. Preliminary reports on the functioning of the gas and electricity markets and the much-discussed EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will also be on the table.
The heads of state or government arrived in the Belgian capital yesterday to meet with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Ukraine, the EU’s eastern partners.
Belarus will not take part in the Eastern Partnership summit. Michel also states in his letter of invitation that he and the Eastern Partners are “expected to reaffirm their shared commitment to tackling key challenges by promoting stability and cooperation, implementing the necessary reforms, setting common future priorities and mobilizing resources.”
The video shared by the European Council late Wednesday afternoon also shows that Orbán and the new Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, shook hands upon arrival, marking Schulz’s first summit as chancellor.