Brussels finally cancels face to face meetings – new rules allow decisions over video

After a bitter row, European Council meetings in both Brussels and Luxembourg will no longer see diplomats and officials come into physical contact. European capitals failed to agree last week on plans to use email to remotely sign off on decisions to curb the spread of the deadly virus. But opponents dropped their hostility to the measures after the EU’s Croatian presidency presented new proposals.

Their member state memo said: “A decision to use the ordinary written procedure, where that decision is taken by Coreper, shall be taken in accordance with the voting rule applicable for the adoption of the Council act concerned.”

The move allows for a simple majority to sign off on a decision while using so-called “written procedure” instead of the usual unanimity.

It represents a huge victory for Brussels after member states eventually backed down in what some believed to be a power grab by eurocrats in the Belgian capital.

Ministerial meetings will continue to hold their “informal” status while held over video link.

Daily teleconferences have been organised to coordinate the bloc’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

It was decided formal decisions will be “preceded by a thorough preparation” by ambassadors on the EU’s Committee of Permanent Representative.

The European Parliament will host an emergency plenary session this week after cancelling much of its calendar for the coming months.

MEPs will be asked to vote on three measures introduced by the EU Commission to combat the global pandemic.

But officials have decided the euro politicians will be allowed to vote remotely in a bid to halt the spread of the deadly virus throughout the institution.

Just yesterday, it was announced that a contract in its IT department died after falling ill from coronavirus.

HR boss Kristian Knudsen wrote to MEPs and staff to inform them of the tragic news.

The memo said: “It is with deep regret that we inform you that a first EP colleague has died of COVID-19.

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“He worked as a contractor in DG ITEC. We extend our sincere condolences to his family and colleagues.”

The victim’s colleagues, in the EU Parliament’s technological support department, have been offered “psychological support”, it added.

Normally MEPs would have to be present in the chamber in order to vote, but special measures have been introduced to allow politicians to make their choice remotely.

“The Parliament is fully supporting unprecedented measures being taken by the EU to help member states deal with the pandemic and mitigate its effects. To play its part, the Parliament is doing everything it can to speed up the implementation of these initiatives,” the EU Parliament said in a statement.

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Euro MPs will decide on whether to sanction Ursula von der Leyen’s €37 billion package to help EU counties overcome the coronavirus crisis.

A second vote will be held on whether to extend the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to cover public health emergencies.

And finally MEPs will vote to stop so-called “ghost flights” caused by the global pandemic by relaxing the bloc’s airline regulations to allow operators to keep their take-off and landing slots despite not using them.

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