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Europe's week: Out with the old, in with the new (if only)

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European Union flags flutter in the wind amongst Christmas decorations outside of EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.
European Union flags flutter in the wind amongst Christmas decorations outside of EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.   -   Copyright  Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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WIth 2021 finally upon us, the issues that plagued the previous year still continue to dog the continent.

Still the biggest mission and toughest challenge will be to try and end the coronavirus pandemic and launch a vaccination programme on a scale never before seen in Europe.

Hundreds of millions of us will receive the jab over the coming months in the hope that life can finally return to a sense of normality

"I wouldn't predict timelines," Stella Kyriakides the European Commissioner for Health said last year. "What I can say, is that we're leaving no stone unturned and that as the vaccine programmes roll out across member states, we will see changes, but we need to cover a significant number of the population.

She added: "And for this reason, I ask citizens and I know that everybody is tired of the way we have had to live in the last throughout this year, but we need to go on keeping the measures in place for a number of months until we have a sufficient percentage of the population covered."

There are also some significant political moments ahead this year, starting with the inauguration of the next US president Joe Biden on January 21, with a visit to Brussels at some stage expected.

There is also the matter of who will take over leadership of the CDU in Germany - Europe’s biggest political party.

Whoever wins will ultimately be in prime position to replace Angela Merkel, who will step down at the next general election in September.

Portugal meanwhile, have now taken over the rotating Presidency of the EU Council for the next six months and they certainly have a lot to deal with.

"There are three priorities of the Portuguese presidency," Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said last year. "Firstly, economic recovery. Now is the time to act, the time to see results, so we want to start applying national recovery plans.

"The second priority," he added. "Is the development of the social pillar. We also need to strengthen social protection so no one is left behind. It's also very clear that the EU has to have a health policy, a common vision. The third priority - we need to strengthen our strategic autonomy."

The postponed United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) summit on climate change, the most significant since Paris in 2015, will also be held in Glasgow in November.

And with the US back in the environmental game, COP 2021 could be a game-changer for the environment.