The Council of the EU will reduce physical expert meetings “to the absolute minimum” and also limit videoconferences to “priority topics” in response to rising coronavirus cases, the German presidency said Monday.
“The second wave of the corona pandemic is currently hitting the EU capital Brussels with full force. The infection figures in Brussels are among the highest in Europe,” a spokesperson for the German presidency said.
The presidency has therefore decided “to reduce physical meetings at expert level to the absolute minimum necessary until further notice,” the spokesperson said, adding: “Virtual meetings will also be limited to priority topics, taking into account the spatial, personnel and technical resources of the Council secretariat and the presidency.”
“Only essential meetings, which are necessary for the functioning of the EU or for the coordination of the COVID-19 crisis response, will continue to be able to take place in person — and only under the condition that all ‘social distancing’ and hygiene regulations can be strictly observed,” the spokesperson said.
The measures will apply as long as long as required by pandemic situation in Brussels, the spokesperson said, adding that EU ambassadors had expressed “broad support” for the decision at a meeting this morning.
Negotiations on the EU budget and the recovery fund will continue physically as “it is practically impossible” to reach an agreement without personal meetings, the spokesperson said.
The presidency did not immediately reply to a question about whether scheduled meetings of EU ministers could still take place in Brussels, but an EU diplomat said “Our understanding is that the overwhelming majority, if not all Ministerial Councils will take place via video-conference in November.“
This story has been updated.