EU summit in Brussels: five key things to look out for

EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday for the first physical summit since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

They are set to discuss further coordination on COVID-19, climate change, as well as security and external relations.

Ursula von der Leyen will brief heads of state and government about her discussion with Boris Johnson on Wednesday night. The leaders have until Sunday to reach an agreement about the Brexit trade deal.

Also on the agenda is a decision on when to start the vaccination campaign at European level.

Here are five things to look out for as the summit kicks off today.

EU budget

The main topic to be discussed on Thursday is the EU budget — a draft agreement is on the table and it seems Poland and Hungary could be willing to lift their veto.


The European Council is set to discuss the overall management of the COVID-19 response across the continent, including work on vaccines and testing and the gradual lifting of restrictions.

Leaders could reach an agreement at the summit on starting a coordinated vaccination programme in the coming weeks.

Climate change

Five years on from the Paris Agreement, a new emissions reduction target for 2030 is to be set by EU leaders.

It’s hoped that the EU will submit its updated, nationally-determined contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) before the end of this year.


Following a number of recent terror attacks on the continent, the European Council will be focussing heavily upon terrorism and violent extremism, including online.

EU foreign affairs ministers will deliver a joint statement about the November attacks in Europe.

External relations

The Council is set to discuss the future of EU-US relations going forward after Joe Biden’s win in the November election.

Also on the agenda is the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the EU’s rocky relationship with Turkey.

The Council may address other specific foreign policy issues in light of recent events.

Following on from Thursday’s summit, a Euro Summit will take place on Friday where leaders will focus on the banking union and the capital markets union.

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