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EU summit: COVID, climate change top second-day agenda

The summit is taking place with strict hygiene regulations in place

The summit is taking place with strict hygiene regulations in place

European Union leaders turned their attention to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the urgent problem of climate change on the second day of a special meeting of the European Council on Tuesday.

This came after they agreed on Monday to impose new sanctions on Belarus after Minsk forced a Ryanair passenger jet to land to arrest an activist journalist on board.

What have leaders said about the coronavirus crisis?

Although developments connected to Belarus loomed large at the leaders' talks on day two as well, one main topic officially slated for discussion was the EU's response to COVID-19.

Among other things, the leaders agreed to donate at least 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to poorer nations by the end of
the year. This comes as supplies of vaccine rise across the bloc.

They also called "for work to be stepped up to ensure global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines" and reiterated their support
for the UN-backed COVAX program, which aims to facilitate the access of low-and middle-income countries to COVID-19 vaccines.

The leaders also welcomed the introduction of a digital COVID-19 pass that they would like to see launched on July 1. The Digital Covid Certificate will be issued to citizens and residents of the EU who have either been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the disease.

The EU hopes that the pass will facilitate tourism in the bloc, an industry that has suffered heavily under the restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

What is on the agenda regarding climate change?

The leaders also discussed the EU's efforts to combat climate change.

Among other things, they said they wanted guidelines to reach binding EU targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The bloc is aiming to reduce emissions 55% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

What happened on Monday?

Monday's debate was dominated by events in Belarus surrounding the forced landing of a Ryanair plane and the arrest of Raman Pratasevich, a government-critical journalist.

EU leaders called for further targeted economic sanctions on Belarus and urged all EU-based carriers to avoid flying through Belarusian airspace.

They also called for the immediate release of Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, a law student.

The leaders also discussed EU-Russian relations in face of actions by Moscow that they termed "illegal, provocative and disruptive."

Such actions include Russian support for an insurgency in eastern Ukraine, and the poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

At the meeting, leaders also condemned the arrest of Mali's interim President Bah N'Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and said the EU would consider sanctions against those obstructing the Malian transition.

Updated : 2021-06-16 01:16 GMT+08:00