The EU and the UK reached an agreement on their future trade relationship on Christmas Eve. This agreement covers all goods at zero-tariff rates, but does not cover services. So far, few disruptions have occurred in borders, aside from the ones caused by travel bans over the new Covid-19 strain first detected in the UK. This strain, more easily transmitted than the previous ones, has made new infections soar across Europe throughout the Christmas holidays.
In the meantime, the European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer/BioNTech (in two purchase waves) and the Moderna vaccines. Rollout has been unequal across different countries, with Denmark vaccinating quite fast while France vaccinated only a few hundred people and the Netherlands none at all till after the holidays. Germany’s unilateral purchase of additional Pfizer doses stirred a controversy that the European Commission was quick to wave away.
In foreign policy, the EU has signed a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with China, which covers state-owned enterprise behaviour, transparency rules for subsidies, and others, improving EU investors’ access to the Chinese market. Public opinion, as well as the incoming Biden administration, have criticised this choice, while EU authorities insist on the concept of strategic autonomy, and continue to condemn the latest developments in Hong Kong.
The mandates for CFSP and CSDP missions in Somalia have been extended. Similarly, EU leaders have condemned recent events at the US Capitol. Finally, Portugal has taken over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, and 2021 marks the European Year of Rail.