EU leaders to meet by videoconference due to Covid-19 surge

European Council chief Charles Michel made the decision following the surge of Covid-19 cases in member states.
European Council chief Charles Michel made the decision following the surge of Covid-19 cases in member states.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BRUSSELS (AFP) - A European Union summit scheduled for Thursday (March 25) and Friday in Brussels will no longer be held in person due to the accelerating third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, a spokesman said.

European Council chief Charles Michel, who organises the regular leaders' meetings, made the decision "following the surge of #COVID19 cases in member states", his spokesman, Mr Barend Leyts, tweeted on Sunday.

The meeting is scheduled to address several sensitive topics, including deteriorating ties with Russia as well as Turkey, and disorganisation in the EU response to the pandemic.

EU diplomats said that leaders last week urged Mr Michel to cancel the in-person meeting, though he had hoped to tighten sanitary measures to avoid reverting again to a videoconference.

The leaders have only met physically a handful of times since the pandemic began, most notably a four-day marathon in July to agree the EU's €750 billion (S$1.2 trillion) recovery plan.

Diplomats complain that topics requiring delicate diplomacy cannot be properly addressed in a video meeting.

The leaders next scheduled in-person meeting is in Porto, Portugal on May 8.