The top heads of the European Union are expected to visit Canada this year, as officials discuss the possibility of Ottawa joining a major research-funding pact.
“We expect the summit to still take place in this year,” said EU ambassador Melita Gabriel on Friday.
Brussels and Ottawa hold leaders’ summits every two years as part of an agreement signed in 2017 alongside a major trade deal. These summit have so far involved the Canadian prime minister and the top two heads of the bloc of 27 countries.
Gabric said that detailed planning has not yet begun for the trip, but expects to see both parties working out specifics on an agreement signed by Ursula von der Leyen, President of European Commission and Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister in March.
The agreement involved more cooperation on everything, from green vehicles to combating disinformation. The circular economy was a major topic, including recycling battery components in order to get close to net zero.
The summit would likely involve a visit by both von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel to Canada. The Canadian Press has asked Global Affairs Canada about the timing of the summit.
In a roundtable with Ottawa journalists, the European Commissioner for Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn, said the summit will help both sides take stock of their support for Ukraine. It could also further talks to have Canada possibly join a more than $100-billion scientific research program called Horizon Europe.
The program has seen countries like New Zealand and Israel sign up for research projects partially funded by the EU, involving themes like the digital industry, health care and climate innovation.
Ottawa and Brussels started negotiations on Canada joining the scheme last November, with the initial goal of signing an agreement this past spring that would be in place this calendar year.
Meanwhile, Hahn, whose job is equivalent to that of Canada’s president of the Treasury Board, said Europe wants to collaborate more with Canada on regulatory, fiscal and political matters.
He also argued that a bigger push for multilateral engagement can help both regions engage with others such as Africa on matters from trade and infrastructure investment to climate change.
“If our world is not based on contracts and agreements that are expected in the future, then we may face problems,” Hahn stated.
Hahn was visiting Canada this week to drum up investment in the European Union’s program for a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and to push for more countries to use the euro currency in international transactions.
Hahn said that the strong credit rating of the European Union, which is higher than many member states’ ratings, has boosted both countries.
Hahn oversees Next Generation EU, a economic recovery package that is similar to Washington’s Inflation Reduction Act. Hahn says that the European funds are disproportionately used to help poorer nations, although they will benefit wealthy states such as Germany and The Netherlands.
“Those with more power understand it is in their interest to have a functioning single market, he added, and that money was meant to support Europe’s move away from fossil-fuels
A recent report by the Climate Solutions Lab of Brown University, Rhode Island, found that Europe’s wind energy investment has reached its peak since the initial boom following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The researchers think that regulatory issues and high interest rates may be delaying the shift to green energy.
Gabric and Hahn both said that Europe looks to Canada for hydrogen in the medium-term future, but each said that it’s not feasible to establish liquefied natural gas exports from Canada, since it will take years to establish export capacity on Canada’s East Coast.
“Natural gas is not so much relevant for us because the facilities are on the other side of your country,” Hahn said, adding that hydrogen is “extremely interesting” to Europeans.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2023.
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