On 24 May, they discussed Belarus, Russia, relations with the UK, and the situation in the Middle East and in Mali. On 25 May, they focused on COVID-19 and climate change.
EU leaders held a strategic debate on Russia. They condemned the illegal, provocative and disruptive Russian activities against the EU, its member states and others. They reaffirmed the EU’s unity and solidarity in the face of such acts as well as its support to Eastern partners. They also expressed their solidarity with the Czech Republic and supported its response.
The European Council reaffirmed its commitment to the five principles governing EU policy vis-à-vis Russia:
- full implementation of the Minsk agreements
- strengthened relations with the Eastern Partnership countries
- strengthening EU resilience in areas such as energy security, hybrid threats and strategic communication
- selective engagement with Russia on issues of clear EU interest
- support for people-to-people contacts
Leaders invited the High Representative and the Commission to present a report with policy options on EU-Russia relations, in line with these principles, ahead of the European Council meeting in June 2021.
The European Council strongly condemned the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on 23 May 2021, which endangered aviation safety, and the detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega.
In particular, the European Council invited the Council to adopt relevant sanctions concerning persons and entities as soon as possible, and called on the Council to adopt further targeted economic sanctions and invited the High Representative and the Commission to submit proposals without delay. EU leaders demanded the immediate release of Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega.
EU leaders acknowledged that the pace of vaccination has accelerated across the EU and discussed the general epidemiological situation in the EU. In the light of the recent improvement, they agreed that a gradual reopening of our societies will be possible. However, the EU needs to stay vigilant regarding the emergence and spread of variants, and take action as necessary. The leaders also stressed that ongoing work to step up vaccination production and secure adequate supply throughout the EU is key.
EU leaders also welcomed the agreement reached on the EU digital COVID certificate and called for its rapid implementation to facilitate free movement within the EU.
Finally, EU leaders came back to the need for a comprehensive global response to COVID-19.
EU leaders reaffirmed the conclusions of last December. They invited the Commission to swiftly put forward its legislative package, together with an in-depth examination of the environmental, economic and social impacts at member state level. They agreed to revert to the matter after the Commission's proposal is submitted.
EU leaders welcomed the recent agreement reached by the Council and the Parliament on the European climate law proposal.
Finally, leaders also welcomed the United States’ renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement and called on international partners, in particular G20 members, to increase their ambition ahead of the United Nations climate conference COP26 in Glasgow.
European Council conclusions, 24-25 May 2021