Leaders of European Union member states are gathered in Brussels on Thursday to try to come up with a coordinated response to the new omicron coronavirus variety in order to avert widespread lockdowns and border closures.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control stated on Wednesday, ahead of the summit, that the new, highly transmissible omicron is expected to become the region’s dominant variety as soon as next month.
Many leaders of countries that rely significantly on tourism expressed reluctance to close borders or impose further travel restrictions, such as obligatory testing, during the joyous holiday season.
However, several countries have already done so following the meeting, at least for the holidays, with Italy requiring mandatory testing even for immunized passengers.
Prior to Thursday’s meeting, everyone agreed that vaccine and booster programmes needed to be hastened.
Another major issue for EU leaders is growing tensions with Russia, which has deployed soldiers on Ukraine’s border, leading many in the international community to fear an invasion.
Should Russia escalate the situation, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen promised “exceptional measures” on Wednesday. EU members are split between those in the east who believe sanctions should be applied immediately and those in the west, such as France and Germany, who fear an invasion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin held video talks with European leaders and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week, claiming he wanted to negotiate an assurance that NATO will not expand further east in Europe.