Biden to join virtual meeting of European Council summit

Meeting comes as US rebuffs calls from Brussels to share its AstraZeneca vaccines

Joe Biden: It will be the first time in 13 years that a US president has joined a European Council meeting. Photograph: Anna Moneymaker/ The New York Times

US president Joe Biden will join the European Council summit later this week – an unusual move that has sparked hopes of renewed co-operation between the United States and the European Union on a range of issues from Covid vaccine supply to China.

Mr Biden will join the virtual meeting of leaders by video conference. It will be the first time in 13 years that a US president has joined a European Council meeting. The last occasion was in 2009 when president Barack Obama participated in a summit in Prague.

It comes as the United States has faced calls from Brussels to share some of its AstraZeneca vaccines which are in storage in the US awaiting regulatory approval – calls that have been so far rebuffed by the Biden administration.

The administration announced last week it was finalising plans to lend 4 million vaccine doses to Mexico and Canada, out of a total of 7 million "releasable" doses.


A statement on Tuesday by the White House said Mr Biden would attend the summit at the invitation of European Council president Charles Michel. The president "will engage with European Union leaders about his desire to revitalise US-EU relations, work together to combat the pandemic and address climate change, and deepen the world's largest trade and investment relationship. He will also discuss shared foreign policy interests including China and Russia. "

In a letter to EU leaders, Mr Michel said Mr Biden "will share his views on our future co-operation" on Thursday evening. The summit takes place as the Biden administration has threatened sanctions over the NordStream 2 pipeline between Russia and Europe. The announcement also coincided with Antony Blinken's first visit to Brussels this week as Secretary of State.

American Rescue Plan

Mr Biden travelled to Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, the latest stop on a series of visits around the country designed to promote the benefits of the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion (€1.6 trillion) Covid stimulus package agreed earlier this month.

The trip also coincided with the 11th anniversary of the passing of the Affordable Care Act, the signature health policy of the Obama presidency known as Obamacare.

Speaking at the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute in Columbus, Mr Biden highlighted the healthcare benefits provided by the American Rescue Plan, including reopening the enrolment period for people without health insurance and reducing the cost of premiums for people.

Pointing to the elements of the Covid relief package designed to address the Covid pandemic and its economic consequences, he said: “By the end of May we are going to have on hand roughly 600 million [vaccine] doses – enough for every American.” He also highlighted the economic benefits the package will give to businesses and individuals, including a $1,400 cheque for millions of Americans.

Mr Biden was speaking as America’s Covid vaccination rollout continued apace. Data from the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that more than a quarter of all Americans have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, while almost 14 per cent of the population have been fully vaccinated – 128 million vaccines have now been administered. Texas became the latest state to announce it is expanding eligibility to all adults over 16 for the Covid vaccine.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent