Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

European Council President Charles Michel, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyon meet in St. John’s on Nov. 24.Paul Daly/The Canadian Press

Canada and the European Union announced on Friday that they are making strides toward new partnerships on green energy, digital transformation and research funding, as a Canada-EU Summit got underway in Newfoundland.

After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during opening remarks on Thursday evening that Canada is joining Horizon Europe, a $100-billion scientific research program, the two parties said in a joint statement on Friday that substantive negotiations are complete and they are working toward its “prompt signature and implementation.”

“Canadian companies are already benefiting from Horizon and have for many years, but there is much more that we’ll be able to access now that we are full partners,” Mr. Trudeau said.

“It is an exciting articulation of what have been long-standing partnerships between scientists on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Ottawa and Brussels started negotiations on Canada joining the scheme a year ago, with an initial goal of signing the agreement this past spring.

Canada has also worked out a deal to build water bombers and ship them to the EU, after both regions faced devastating forest fires this past summer.

And Canada and the EU have announced what they are calling a new Green Alliance, which is focused on deepening existing partnerships on fighting climate change, halting biodiversity loss and intensifying technological and scientific co-operation.

A new digital partnership was also part of the package of announcements on Friday, which the joint statement said would deepen engagement on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

The leaders also pledged to further collaborate on critical minerals, as allied countries seek components used in goods such as electrical vehicles from places other than China.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Canada “is a perfect match” for Europe’s resource needs, and she urged Ottawa to join a global partnership on the issue that the EU will launch within weeks.

“Canada is indeed in a pull position where critical raw materials are concerned,” she said.

“You are today the country – the only country – in the western hemisphere with all the raw materials required for a lithium battery; you have it all.”

The leaders spoke about their shared values as wars rage in Ukraine and in Gaza.

“The world we’re facing right now is incredibly challenging and difficult,” Mr. Trudeau said at a press conference.

“At a time when many of our democratic values are under threat, it’s more important than ever that we work together.”

Mr. Trudeau said Canada and the EU are committed to helping Ukraine continue in its fight against the Russian invasion, and announced that Canada is donating additional small arms and ammunition to the country worth almost $60-million as part of a $500-million military aid package announced in the summer.

That includes almost 11,000 assault rifles and machine guns and more than nine million rounds of associated ammunition.

Earlier on Friday, European Council President Charles Michel reiterated Europe’s support for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Michel told reporters in St. John’s that the leaders would also discuss Israel’s right to defend itself within the bounds of international law and the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is waging war against Hamas following its early October attacks on Israel.

“We reaffirm the imperative to protect civilians and ensure full compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law,” the joint statement said.

“We strongly reiterate the importance of urgent and unimpeded access for life-saving humanitarian aid flowing to Gaza through all necessary measures, including humanitarian corridors and pauses.”

As the day got underway, Ms. von der Leyen told reporters that she was relieved Israel and Hamas had reached an agreement to swap hostages Friday as a four-day ceasefire is set to begin in Gaza.

A group of about two dozen pro-Palestinian protesters were outside the venue where the summit was being held on Friday. A similar number gathered outside the small St. John’s pub where Mr. Trudeau welcomed the leaders on Thursday night, chanting: “Ceasefire now!”

The two European leaders were set to spend the day in talks with Mr. Trudeau, in which hydrogen energy is also top of mind as Atlantic Canada angles to become a major supplier of hydrogen fuel to European markets.

Jeremy Kinsman, a former Canadian ambassador to the EU in Brussels, said both parties are also likely thinking their strategic partnership will become much more vital if Donald Trump manages to win the United States presidency again.

Achim Hurrelmann, a political scientist at Carleton University who co-directs the school’s Centre for European Studies, agreed, noting that the EU and Canada pulled closer during Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Mr. Hurrelmann said the summit is routine, though he says he expects a fair bit of discussion about green energy, especially with meetings being held in Newfoundland, where several green hydrogen projects have been proposed with Germany as a target market.

“Something that I’ve sometimes heard said about the EU-Canada relationship is that it’s a problem that there are no problems,” Mr. Hurrelmann said in an interview.

“There isn’t really often any compelling reason to necessarily phone the president of the European Commission or something like that, because usually Canada and the EU share similar perceptions on global issues. But this is a good opportunity to make sure that doesn’t mean we don’t pay attention to each other in the relationship.”

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe