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Main results of the video conference of the members of the European Council

  • European Council

Main results

On 21 January 2021, EU heads of state or government met via video conference to discuss coordination on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They shared best practices and exchanged views on testing, vaccinations and detecting new variants of the virus.

New virus variants

The leaders noted the seriousness of the situation especially in the light of the new variants. They expressed their determination to limit the spread of the virus by adopting similar measures among the member states and highlighted the importance of increasing sequencing capacity.


The leaders welcomed the fact that the Council had adopted earlier in the day, by written procedure, a recommendation on a common framework for the use and validation of rapid antigen tests and on the mutual recognition of COVID-19 test results.

Borders and the single market

The leaders discussed the importance of keeping borders open to ensure the functioning of the EU’s single market.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council

No indiscriminate travel bans should be imposed. However, measures restricting non-essential travel in the EU may be needed to contain the spread of the virus.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council

The leaders acknowledged that the Council may need to review its recommendations on non-essential travels into the EU in light of the risks posed by the new virus variants.


The leaders expressed their will to accelerate vaccination and highlighted that delivery commitments made by companies must be respected.

Leaders reaffirmed the need to have a close follow-up of the vaccination process. All possible means will be examined to ensure rapid supply, including early distribution to avoid delays.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council

Vaccine certificates

The European Council members agreed to work on a standardised and inter-operable form of proof of vaccination for medical purposes.

We think that we should be able to agree on common elements to include in certificates for medical purposes. And at a later stage we can see in which circumstances these certificates can be used.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council

International solidarity

Maintaining that vaccines should be treated as a global common good, the leaders reaffirmed their solidarity with third countries. They highlighted the importance of the COVAX initiatve and Team Europe. The members of the European Council agreed that effective support should be delivered as soon as possible.

Other topics discussed

Alexei Navalny

The EU leaders condemned the detention of the Russian opposition politician, who was arrested upon his return to Moscow on 17 January.

We call on Russia to release Mr Navalny immediately. His rights must be fully and unconditionally respected.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council

Background information

On 19 January, the European Commission issued a communication setting out suggestions for a range of measures to be taken to contain the pandemic while preserving the functioning of the EU single market.

At the European Council meeting of 10 and 11 December, leaders adopted conclusions on COVID-19. They welcomed the positive announcements on the development of effective vaccines and the common advance purchase agreements concluded by the Commission. Furthermore, the leaders highlighted the importance of preparations for the timely deployment and distribution of vaccines to ensure they are made available in good time and in a coordinated manner. The European Council also pointed out that the arrival of vaccines does not mean that the pandemic is over and called for sustained efforts to counter the spread of the virus. 

EU COVID-19 response

Vaccines and vaccination

Vaccinations against COVID-19 started on 27 December across the EU. Vaccines are being shipped to all member states at the same time and under the same conditions.

So far, the EU has granted conditional marketing authorisation for two COVID-19 vaccines, following positive assessments by the European Medicines Agency. Agreements for four other vaccines have been secured.


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