Tá áthas orm labhairt leis an Dáil maidir leis an gcruinniú den Chomhairle Eorpach a bheidh ar siúl Déardaoin agus Dé hAoine an seachtain seo chugainn.
The agenda at the European Council meeting on Thursday, 10 December and Friday, 11 December has yet to be finalised, but is expected to include Covid-19, Brexit, climate change, security and counterterrorism and external relations, particularly with Turkey, the southern neighbourhood and the US. In addition, it seems likely that we will discuss the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, and the recovery package. We will also meet at the euro summit on 11 December to discuss banking union and capital markets union.
In my statement I will address Brexit, Covid-19, climate, the MFF and the euro summit. The Minister of State, Deputy Thomas Byrne, will address counterterrorism and external relations in his remarks.
Next week's meeting will provide another important opportunity for European Union leaders to take stock of key developments in our collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has dominated the past nine months. We agreed in October that we should continue to meet regularly to discuss Covid-19 issues and to co-ordinate our efforts. At our video conference meeting on 19 November we had very useful exchanges on vaccines, testing and our approaches to the lifting of restrictive measures.
Regarding vaccines, we discussed encouraging results from recent trials and national plans for their deployment when authorised for public use. As the House will be aware, Ireland is part of the joint European Union procurement initiative being operated by the European Commission on behalf of member states to procure a portfolio of suitable, safe and effective vaccines in sufficient quantities. Here at home, the major logistical, medical and ethical issues involved are being addressed by a cross-public service task force which we have established to oversee a national immunisation programme. I take this opportunity to acknowledge in particular the remarkable work being undertaken by the European Commission on supporting vaccine development and procurement. I pay tribute to President Ursula von der Leyen for her leadership in this regard. Once approved, Europe's citizens can look forward to the mass roll-out of vaccines in 2021, and there is now a light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel for us all. While we must continue to keep our guard up, especially over the festive season, we can at least now look ahead to 2021 with greater confidence.
Regarding testing, we discussed developments in the area of rapid antigen tests and welcomed the Commission guidance presented on 18 November. While the polymerase chain reaction, PCR, test remains the diagnostic standard, there may be potential for deploying rapid tests in certain circumstances. We agreed that there should be further work on mutual recognition of tests and their results.
In our video conference discussion a fortnight ago we all reflected on the growing Covid numbers across the European Union and the challenges ahead of the festive period. Circumstances are very different across member states, and key decisions here are a matter to be determined at national level in light of our differing circumstances. There is no room for complacency and we have to remain vigilant as we continue our fight against Covid. Every contact counts. While the agenda for our discussion next week is not yet finalised, it will be informed by the work of health ministers at this afternoon's video conference meeting in which the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, is participating.
We will have the opportunity at next week's European Council to reinforce Europe's leadership role on climate. As we approach the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, I strongly support enhanced ambition at European Union level and an increase in the European Union 2030 target to at least 55% emissions reduction. I support this being delivered collectively by the European Union in the most cost-effective manner possible, taking into account national circumstances and considerations of fairness and solidarity. When we met on 15 and 16 October, European Union leaders reviewed progress towards the Union's objective of climate neutrality by 2050, informed by the Commission's communication, Stepping up Europe's 2030 Climate Ambition. This includes the proposed emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels and the actions required to achieve that ambition. This approach at European level is consistent with Ireland's domestic approach, as the recently published climate action Bill illustrates. At our meeting next week I will again convey Ireland's support for increased ambition at European Union level while asserting the importance of fair sharing of the effort across member states. The target of at least 55% is certainly ambitious compared with our previous target of 40% by 2030. However, the Commission has studied the matter carefully and believes that it both can be achieved and is to our collective advantage. I hope it will be possible to reach consensus at our meeting that the new target should now be submitted to the United Nations as the European Union's commitment under the Paris process.
I expect that next week's meeting will also take stock of progress on delivering on the new €1.8 trillion multi-annual financial framework and recovery package agreed in July. Our agreement in July, which was reached by consensus, included measures to protect the Union's financial interests. These were among the most difficult to negotiate, with some member states seeking looser arrangements and others seeking more binding measures. The next step was to reach agreement with the European Parliament on the budget package, and the German Presidency has done a great job in finding a basis on which the Parliament can give its consent. This has now come back for approval in the Council. At present a small number of member states are not prepared to give the deal with the Parliament their support as they believe it does not align with what was agreed in July. Chancellor Merkel briefed us by video conference on 19 November and said the Presidency will continue its efforts to bring everybody on board. She continues to have my full support in this regard. It is important we get the recovery funding in place as quickly as we can while continuing to hold member states to account in upholding the Union's values in line with the treaties.
On Friday, 11 December, there will be a meeting of the Euro Summit in inclusive format, that is, involving all member states, not just those whose currency is the euro. This meeting usually takes place each December. We expect to take stock of the developments on banking union and capital markets union. The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, in his capacity as President of the Eurogroup, chaired the preparatory meeting of the Eurogroup on Monday, 30 November, and will update next week's meeting on key developments. There were important breakthroughs at this week's Eurogroup meeting on finalising reform of the European Stability Mechanism and earlier entry into force from the beginning of 2022 of the common backstop to the Single Resolution Fund. These are important steps towards completing banking union and strengthening the resilience and crisis resolution capabilities of the euro area. Both are very welcome from an Irish perspective. Leaders will also hear from President Christine Lagarde on the European Central Bank's latest assessment of the economic outlook against the backdrop of unprecedented pandemic-related uncertainly. The clear emphasis that President Lagarde has established on ensuring the right mix of monetary, fiscal and structural policies for the period ahead is very welcome and I look forward to constructive exchanges with leaders to this end.
As Deputies will be aware, negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union continue this week. We are in the final, critical phase. I spoke by phone to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last Friday. She confirmed that at that point differences remained on key issues. As of now, those gaps have not yet been bridged. I have every confidence that our chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will use every best endeavour and every opportunity this week to try to deliver a deal in the interests of all European Union citizens, businesses and employment. I believe this is strongly in the interest of the United Kingdom also, a point I made to Prime Minister Johnson when we spoke last Friday. This will mean reaching agreement on level playing field issues, fisheries and much more.
While European Union-United Kingdom contacts continue, one month out from the end of transition we have now reached a point in time when prudence demands that we must proceed with preparations for European Union contingency measures in case of no deal. I expect to see contingency measures discussed in Brussels over the coming week and in advance of the December European Council. Next week, when I attend the meeting of the European Council, it will be an opportunity to reflect with other European Union leaders on the outcome of the negotiations and to chart our critical next steps, deal or no deal. Our fervent wish, of course, is that the negotiators arrive at a deal, a sensible free trade agreement, that would be to the benefit of all whom we represent in terms of jobs, employment and our respective economies.
Next week's meeting of the European Council has a heavy and very busy agenda. It reflects the range of pressing issues currently at the top of the European Union agenda: Covid-19, climate action and Brexit as well as a number of external relations issues of pivotal importance, including the European Union's deep but complicated relations with Turkey, our relations with all the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean and consideration of the prospects to refresh and refocus our transatlantic relations following the recent United States elections. I look forward to engaging with my European Union colleagues collectively and bilaterally at next week's meeting of the European Council on all these issues and will report back to the House in due course.