The Taoiseach was speaking following the two day meeting in Brussels.
Council members outlined their countries’ experience of the pandemic and stated their determination to stand together and step up the coordination effort on a number of fronts, including the procurement and distribution of vaccines at EU level.
An Taoiseach said:
The current situation in Ireland in relation to Covid-19 is very similar to the pattern across Europe with younger people affected first and then a higher incidence in the older population emerging. This morning’s discussion was useful in terms of sharing experiences, and particularly the exchanges on the distribution of vaccines and procurement policy. I believe there will be an intensification of work on issues such as vaccines, quarantine frameworks and travel in the time ahead so that greater coordination on these areas can be achieved across Europe.
There is serious concern across Europe in relation to the health and economic impacts of Covid-19. It is clear that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the European and global economy. Hence, a strong economic base is more important than ever given the challenges in competitiveness, job creation and sustainable economic growth. The recovery package agreed at the July summit to counter the effects of Covid-19 will be used to promote the European recovery and strengthen the EU’s resilience.
Brexit was also addressed at the meeting today and, following an update on the negotiations from the President of the European Commission, I gave my assessment of the current situation. I underlined the importance of full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement including the Northern Ireland Protocol, and seamless trade on the island of Ireland. I also stressed the need to restore trust in the negotiations between the EU and UK, following the unilateral action taken by the British Government. Our desired outcome of the trade negotiations is a sensible and comprehensive agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, which protects jobs and our respective economies.
There was a detailed strategic discussion on EU relations with Turkey and on the importance of a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean. We welcomed the recent confidence building steps by Greece and Turkey, as well as the announcement that they will resume their direct exploratory talks. At the same time, we strongly condemned violations by Turkey of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus.
It was agreed, if Turkey refrains from its illegal activities vis-à-vis Greece and Cyprus, to launch a positive political engagement with Turkey focussed on trade, people to people contacts, high level dialogues, and continued cooperation on migration.
“We called on the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs to scope out the parameters for a Multilateral Conference on the Eastern Mediterranean.
We also discussed the situation in Belarus and condemned the unacceptable violence by the Belarussian authorities against peaceful protesters. The European Council fully supports the right to free and democratic elections without external interference and has agreed to impose sanctions against officials in Belarus.
The European Council will meet again in a fortnight’s time.
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