The economy and the climate will be pushed to the margins of this week’s European Council summit on Thursday and Friday (17-18 March), where discussions will once again be dominated by the migration crisis. EURACTIV France reports.
As an ordinary summit, the European Council would normally focus on economic issues. Member states usually use the March Council to address the question of the European Semester, which concerns the coordination of the EU budget.
Most, if not all of the discussions are likely to concentrate on the refugee crisis. “If there is any time left, we will talk about competitiveness,” an English source said, more in hope than expectation.
The draft summit conclusions dedicate only a small paragraph to questions of jobs, growth and competitiveness, which under normal circumstances should have been the headline issue. And the discussion of the Economic and Monetary Union is put back until June.
But the United Kingdom has threatened to steal the limelight at the June Council: the Brexit referendum is scheduled for 23 June, the same day as the summit.
France had hoped to add several subjects to the list of priorities, including agriculture, the steel industry, and last but not least, the climate. But due to a lack of consensus, all of these topics failed to make it onto the agenda.
Paris may have managed to persuade Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to establish a support mechanism for the milk sector, but the future of European farmers is still highly uncertain.
French President François Hollande had also hoped to discuss the crisis in the European steel industry with the EU’s other heads of state and government, as Chinese competition puts the sector under increasing strain.
But talks on the EU’s climate action and the agreement finalised in Paris last December receive only a passing mention at the bottom of this long list of priorities.
This issue, which seemed so important during the COP 21 and which leaders even linked with the migration crisis, has been brushed aside in favour of more short-term concerns. 2015 was the hottest year ever recorded, and after the warmest February since records began, we should prepare for a repeat performance in 2016.