Focus on EU’s external action and building our stronger inner core: von der Leyen at the Special European Council© European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service, Ursula von der Leyen
On 1 and 2 October, EU leaders met in Brussels to discuss foreign affairs and the EU’s economic base.
They reiterated full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus ‘whose sovereignty and sovereign rights must be respected’. “The EU has a strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey”, the leaders stressed in the Council conclusions.
“We are convinced that differences must be resolved through peaceful dialogue and in accordance with international law”, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said after the first day of exchanges. “We want a positive and a constructive relationship with Turkey and this would also be very much in Ankara’s interest.” She highlighted that the EU would prefer to work on a new long-term EU Turkey relationship: a positive agenda that would include the modernisation of our customs union and a stronger cooperation on migration.
Leaders also discussed the situation in Belarus, condemning the unacceptable violence by Belarusian authorities against peaceful protesters, and have agreed on imposing restrictive measures. “There will be no impunity for those who are responsible for the crackdown on demonstrators and opposition politicians”, von der Leyen said at the press conference following the first day of the Council.
The Council also adopted conclusions on China, Nagorno-Karabakh and the case of Alexei Navalny.
On the second day, the leaders discussed the EU’s single market, industrial policy and digital transformation. President von der Leyen spoke about improving the single market, in particular with regard to remaining barriers and problems with implementation that can deprive companies from the benefits of a large market.
“To accelerate the pace in this area, the Commission will present a first monitoring report early next year. We will then build on this to work concretely with Member States and stakeholders to resolve the problems companies face on a daily basis”, the President said. She also announced that the Commission would update the Industrial Strategy in the first half of next year to ‘take stock of where we are with industrial alliances for key technologies, and with efforts to improve our resilience such as on raw materials’.
“On the digital transition, Europe clearly needs to ‘up its game’”, von der Leyen said reminding of the three priorities – data, artificial intelligence and infrastructure – critical to making this Europe’s Digital Decade. She concluded that the Commission would push forward the Digital Decade, while investing 20 % of NextGenerationEU in the digital.