The European Green Deal and the EU’s next multi-annual budget will top the EU leaders’ summit agenda on Thursday.
The European Council is expected to give the green light for the European Commission’s roadmap for sustainable and just economic transition.
“Climate change is the number one priority for this afternoon’s meeting. I hope we will have an agreement and send a signal about the future of Europe”, Charles Michel, the president of European Council, told journalists at his arrival to the meeting.
Over the past two weeks since taking over the position from the previous President Donald Tusk, Michel paid a visit to several EU countries to discuss the governments’ opinion on the 2021-2027 EU Budget.
He warned that European heads of states and governments need to find a “balance between classical policies like cohesion, and new policies like migration, climate action and research.”
There is a clear divide between the Western and Eastern European countries on both questions.
The next EU budget proposes to spend less on economic development and cohesion policy, from which Eastern European economies have benefited in the past fifteen years.
At the same time, the plan suggests supporting green and sustainable economic transformation.
“It would be a strong signal if Europe was the continent that was going to be climate neutral by 2050, but we have to see how it goes”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her doorstep statement.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban acknowledged that climate change is a problem but said fighting it is a big challenge that costs a lot of money.
Hungary also supports the commission’s proposal on turning the continent climate neutral by 2050, but Orban thinks that it is not the “poor countries and the poor people” who have to pay the bill of the green growth strategy. He also expressed his support for nuclear energy.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis also insisted on the importance of nuclear energy and sent a strong message to his Austrian counterpart.
“If the Czech Republic opts for climate neutrality, Austria won’t have energy”, he said.
Some 37% of Czech Republic’s energy production is based on coal plants, while 32% is supplied by nuclear energy.
Austria, which strongly supports clean energy in domestic production and European politics, buys a quarter of its total consumption from the Czech Republic.
The European leaders are expected to hold talks till late night on Thursday and continue the discussions on Brexit and the future of the Economic and Monetary Union on Friday.
By Agnes Szucs in Brussels