First EU summit for Scholz

Brussels (dpa) – The Ukraine conflict, the coronavirus pandemic and the high energy prices in Europe dominated Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s first EU summit. At the end of the meeting of heads of state and government in Brussels, the EU resolutely warned Russia against attacking Ukraine. In a joint statement, it said that Russia urgently needed to defuse the tensions brought about by the deployment of troops on the border with Ukraine and aggressive rhetoric, adding that any further military aggression would result in “massive consequences and high costs”. Sanctions agreed with partners were mentioned as an example.

Scholz said it was of the utmost importance for the EU “that the borders in Europe are not shifted, and that there is security for everyone”. According to French President Emmanuel Macron, however, the EU approach is not only about deterrence, but also about reviving a dialogue with Russia. “We must find the only path that can prevail (…), namely the path of discussion and of political solution,” he said in a joint press conference with Scholz after a marathon negotiation lasting almost 14 hours. The French president and the chancellor secured the support of their partners for planned mediation efforts.

Another major topic at the summit was the coronavirus situation – especially with regard to the new Omicron variant. The heads of state and government again stressed the need for people to get vaccinated and sought a common line on free travel within the EU. Germany and France do not consider compulsory PCR tests within the EU to make sense at present. In view of the Omicron variant, the EU states want to have 180 million doses of the adapted coronavirus vaccine supplied by Biontech/Pfizer. On the subject of energy prices, the heads of state and government were still unable to agree on a common approach. As Council President Charles Michel said, they spent hours discussing things such as the impact of soaring emissions trading prices on gas and electricity prices as well as a possible reform of the electricity market.

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