European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday invited EU heads of state and government to a virtual summit on Thursday and Friday, to discuss coronavirus vaccines as well as economic and digital policy, and to briefly touch on relations with Russia and Turkey.
The latest discussion on the shortage of vaccines stands to be more painful than getting jabbed with a big needle. The distribution of vaccines in the EU remains painfully slow compared to countries like the U.K. and the U.S., and politicians and citizens are increasingly frustrated.
Michel had hoped to hold the summit in person, but was forced to switch to the online format because of surging coronavirus infections in several EU countries.
It’s not clear there is anything leaders can do that will quickly result in a large additional supply of vaccine doses.
“On COVID, our top priority is to speed up vaccination campaigns across the EU,” Michel wrote in his invitation letter. “To this end, the ongoing work to boost vaccine production, increase vaccine deliveries and ensure more transparency and predictability of supplies should be intensified. In addition, we will address COVID certificates and the international dimension.”
So-called vaccine certificates are not much easier to deal with. Countries that have large tourism sectors are counting on the certificates to help restart travel before the summer holiday season. But officials warn that it will be difficult to develop the needed technological platform, and that some countries dislike the concept because of data privacy concerns.
In his letter, Michel said U.S. President Joe Biden would join the summit briefly on Thursday evening and “share his views on our future cooperation.”
Thursday’s videoconference will start at 1 p.m. while Friday’s session will start at 9:30 a.m. Friday’s meeting will include European Central Bank President Christine Legarde and Eurogroup President Paschal Donohoe.
Thursday’s session will also touch on relations with Russia and Turkey. Michel is expected to report on his phone call Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Leaders will also discuss “stepping up” engagement with Turkey, Michel said.
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