Finnish PM leaves EU summit as ‘precautionary’ measure

BRUSSELS (AP) — Another day at the European Union summit, another leader gone away.

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Friday that she had left the summit of heads of states and governments in Belgium on its final day “as a precautionary measure” after learning that a Finnish lawmaker she recently attended a meeting with tested positive for the coronavirus.

The move came one day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen left the summit venue in Brussels shortly after talks began because one of her close staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

Two other EU top officials, the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell and the commissioner for humanitarian aid Janez Lenarcic, went into isolation this week after coming into contact with people who tested positive for the virus during a trip to Ethiopia.

“I left the European Council meeting as a precautionary measure and asked the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to represent the Finnish end of the meeting time,” Marin wrote, adding that she was flying back home to undergo a coronavirus test.

She had attended a meeting Wednesday at the Finnish parliament together with lawmaker Tom Packalen who later had tested positive for the coronavirus and had mild flu symptoms.

Since the pandemic first surfaced in Europe in February, EU leaders have held several summits via videoconference. Many have complained about the lack of privacy attached to video calls and welcomed restarting in-person meeting in July, when leaders agreed on the next long-term budget for the bloc during a marathon summit.

But they held their last summit just two weeks ago, and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen questioned the need to meet again in person this week.

“This summit should be held as a video conference,” she told reporters on arrival in Brussels. “There are some discussions where one needs to be brought a little closer to each other. And then there are other meetings where you can do it as a video conference.”

Last month, a summit was postponed for a week after EU Council president Charles Michel went into coronavirus quarantine, also as a precaution after one of his security officers tested positive for COVID-19.

In light of the worsening virus situation across the continent, this week’s meeting could well be the last one in person for a while. On Thursday, the European Parliament said its upcoming plenary session scheduled next week would be held remotely.


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Jan M. Olsen contributed to this story.

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