Thursday was dedicated to COVID-19 and revolved around the sluggish vaccination campaign and the ways to jumpstart it, while on Friday the council will discuss the the issues of defense and cooperation with the bloc's Mediterranean members, and will be joined by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
On Thursday, the heads of state and governments agreed to speed up the authorization, production and distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus. The EU leaders stressed that manufacturing companies must also ensure the predictability of the production and supply of vaccines. European leaders also spoke in favor of the need to expand opportunities for the early detection and control of new variants of the coronavirus.
The keyword is coordination as the EU is desperately trying to get past the cacophony of repeated excuses for the inaction, delays and errors of Brussels in dealing with the pandemic.
Vaccination is still a sore topic for the EU leadership, which has been promising a lot but never quite living up to its promises over the last few months. At this point when major European countries are starting to wonder if they should not look elsewhere for getting more shipments of vaccines for their failing vaccination campaigns.
One most glaring flaws in the bloc's vaccination strategy are the speed of emergency authorization by the European Medicines Agency coupled with the speed of ordering. According to a diplomat working at the European Council services, the speed of ordering is what gave the UK "a strong lead over the EU".
Another issue is the allocation of vaccines, with some countries not taking their share and creating surpluses used by others.
This is confirmed by Marc Van Ranst, a virologist and professor at the KU Leuven university.
Apart from vaccination, another pressing issue on the European Council agenda is so-called vaccine passports, as well as the problem of these uncoordinated movement restrictions.
The official EU position and recommendation is not to forbid all air and land travel, but only to "strongly discourage" citizens to travel; except for serious or emergency reasons.
Nevertheless, some countries, such as Germany or Belgium have gone further. Belgium, for example, outright forbids its citizens to travel, except for emergency issues. This has prompted a response from the European Commission, which earlier in the week gave Belgium 10 days to justify the measure.
Meanwhile, airlines have stated that they would demand from travelers on their planes to produce some kind of vaccine passport. Some member states are in favor and intend to enlarge the scope of the vaccine passport making it mandatory to enter cinemas, theaters or even restaurants, for example.
Others, such as France or Belgium declare that it is much too early to discuss that, proposing to wait until 70 percent of the adult population is vaccinated. Since these countries currently hover at about 4 percent, the vaccine passport will likely have to wait for next autumn or even winter.
As the vaccination-related issues refuse to go away the European Council members certainly have enough to talk about.
“This last is important. Even in corporate environments, it is very difficult to remove an underling for incompetence if that underling has seniority and a long history of good performance reviews. As in government bureaucracies, the easiest way to deal with such people is often to “kick them upstairs”: promote them to a higher post, where they become somebody else’s problem.”