Week 42 of 2020 has been dominated by a steep rise of COVID-19 cases across the continent. And Brexit, of course. On Thursday, the European Council convened to discuss the end of the transition period with the UK. EU leaders called for a trade deal to be finalised before Christmas, but asked British officials to take initiative. UK Chief Negotiator David Frost expressed his disappointment on Twitter, and the following day PM Boris Johnson asked citizens to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.
Meanwhile, there has been a very significative resurgence of coronavirus patients across northern and central Europe. Czech patients are now being admitted in German hospitals, after the country approached the point of healthcare collapse. France, Belgium and the Netherlands have introduced curfews, Slovakia will be mobilising its army to test every resident, and Poland and Hungary are reaching maximum hospital occupancy rates. Even Germany and Italy are seeing a surge.
The Council recommended a harmonised framework for restricting freedom of movement due to coronavirus outbreaks. While this second wave has definitely done away with optimistic economic forecasts, a Financial Times study shows that controlling the pandemic well leads to better performance in all cases.
Intertwined with President von der Leyen’s European Bauhaus, the Commission has launched a ‘renovation wave’ for greener buildings, helping the EU stay on track with its emission reductions, whose target will not be decided by the European Council until December. A new chemical strategy also seeks to reduce pesticides in the EU.
In the international sphere, the EU imposed sanctions on Russian officials over the poisoning of Alexei Navalny with novichok, as well as on Libyan and Syrian officials for human rights abuses. Finally, the WTO authorised the EU to impose $4 billion worth of tariffs on American goods in retaliation to unfair US subsidies to Boeing that harmed Airbus.