(Above) Charles Michel, President of the European Council, with Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel; (below) Mr Michel with HRH the Grand Duke; Credit: © SIP / Jean-Christophe Verhaegen; Maison du Grand-Duc

On Thursday 16 September 2021, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, undertook a working visit to Luxembourg.

On this occasion, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel met with the European Council President to discuss a series of current European and international topics of prime importance, namely the COVID-19 pandemic and the end of the health crisis, climate change, the question of the rule of law in the European Union (EU), the current situation in Afghanistan and preparations for the EU-Western Balkans Summit.

They also took stock of the work of the European Council in recent months. “Europe has proven itself and has taken very great steps. Within the European Council, we have made strategic commitments in the fight against climate change and its financing", Luxembourg's Prime Minister noted. "In the midst of a pandemic, we have found an agreement on a new European budget. We have put in place a historic stimulus plan financed by the issuance of a common European debt. We - under the Michel Presidency and together with the European Commission - have succeeded in finding pragmatic solutions to our common challenges: from the 'general escape clause' to the unblocking of the first pandemic crisis package, the 'green lanes' and the reestablishment of free movement of workers and cross-border workers with the vaccine passport which today ensures a return to a certain normality in complete safety throughout the European Union. And these are just a few examples of the successes of recent months".

On the topic of climate change, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Council President Charles Michel focused primarily on the "Fit for 55" package under the European Green Deal, which contains a dozen legislative proposals and should enable the EU to achieve a reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions of at least 55% by 2030. Mr Bettel noted: "Faced with climate change, 'business as usual' is no longer an option. The climate emergency is pressing. [...] This is why I am delighted that work will now begin at the Council of Environment Ministers. We must work constructively to find an agreement now. This, and I would like to stress this, within the framework of the established legislative procedure”. He also raised persistent reservations on the part of Luxembourg regarding the issue of an emissions trading system in the areas of transport and housing, particularly from the point of view of the effectiveness of 'such a measure to achieve the desired goals, as well as from the point of view of social impact.

On the question of the rule of law in the EU, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel emphasised: “The rule of law and respect for universal rights are the foundation of our Union. These values ​​are not and will never be negotiable. This is why Luxembourg supports the European Commission and the Council in their various steps, which aim to preserve and to guarantee the values ​​which are at the very heart of our Union”.

Regarding the situation in Afghanistan, her stressed the importance of the EU, together with its international partners, coming to the aid of vulnerable Afghans.

Another item on the agenda was preparations for the EU-Western Balkans Summit which will take place on 6 October in Brdo, Slovenia. Luxembourg's Prime Minister welcomed the potential deliverables on the horizon of this Summit and highlighted his position that "we remain of the opinion that a future within the European Union must remain the perspective of the Western Balkans, but we will continue to place a strong emphasis on respect for the rule of law, fundamental rights and freedom of the press”.

At the end of their working meeting, Luxembourg's Prime Minister and the President of the European Council visited the birthplace of Robert Schuman in Luxembourg-Clausen.

Also on the occasion of his Luxembourg visit, Charles Michel was received in audience by His Royal Highness the Grand Duke at the Grand Ducal Palace.