EU leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday and Friday (20-21 October) to discuss the still ongoing migration crisis and the EU-Canada trade deal, CETA. Follow our live feed for all the latest developments.
This will also be the first formal EU28 Council since Theresa May succeeded David Cameron as UK prime minister.
Relations with Russia are also going to be given particular focus, following a meeting of foreign affairs ministers on Monday (17 October).
EU leaders had far bigger fish (and chips) to fry than Brexit at the European Council summit in Brussels.
British Prime Minister Theresa May today (21 October) insisted that EU leaders’ response to Moscow’s bombing of Aleppo was a success, as Russian warships passed through the English Channel on their way to Syria.
EU leaders will seek to strike migration deals with five African countries, similar to the one enacted with Turkey in March. Aid to these countries will be dependent on their efforts to curb illegal migration to the EU, rather than the EU’s traditional principles of human rights and the rule of law. Read the story here.
Extending the Turkish “cash for migrants” scheme to five African countries will mark a turning point for European aid policy, which has previously been dependent on the principles of democracy and human rights. EurActiv France reports.
In the interview, de Waele explains that Wallonia’s concerns about CETA had been raised a while ago, on 25 April 2016 to be precise. However, those concerns were largely ignored by the European Commission, which “did nothing to respond to them”, de Waele said.
Here’s the resolution adopted by the Walloon Parliament back then:
For insights into Wallonia’s thinking on CETA, a must-read is the interview my colleague Georgi Gotev did with Jean-Michel de Waele, a political science professor at Brussels Free University (ULB).
De Waele was a colleague of Paul Magnette, the Minister-President of the Walloon region, who started his own career as a ULB teacher and quickly worked his way up to become director of the university’s Institute for European Studies (IEE). In short, the guy knows what he’s talking about…
Belgian Professor Jean-Michel de Waele slammed the European Commission for twisting the arm of Wallonia over CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada.
Good morning. Wallonia’s veto to the EU-Canada free-trade agreement (CETA) will dominate summit talks today. But the mood is quite downbeat. Here’s what you need to read:
UK Prime Minister Theresa May last night (20 October) told EU leaders that Britain would not just rubber-stamp agreements made between the other member states when they meet as 27.
Council conclusions on migration are here.
“The entry into force of the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation on 6 October and national efforts are important steps in strengthening control of our external borders and getting ‘back to Schengen’ by adjusting the temporary internal border controls to reflect the current needs.”
This is code that could allow member states to extend Schengen border controls. Soft language was a concession to Slovenia, holding the rotating EU Presidency. It wanted to downplay the interior border controls.
Belgium’s Le Soir is reporting that the Walloons will reject the accord.
We’re hearing that the final council conclusions will include language saying that Schengen countries should be allowed to introduce temporary border controls when the situation demands it. This is under the “back to Schengen” plan.
We have some more detail on May’s intervention over the Bratislava Roadmap. Sources said she told EU leaders that as long as Britain was a member of the EU, it wanted a full seat at the table, and to be involved in discussion over new initiatives. The intervention was “friendly”, sources said, and the response from other leaders was a “little guilty”. They agreed she had a point. This does not mean that there will not be future meetings of the 27. There will be but the UK will have to be enter into discussion on whatever is agreed.
Here is an excellent AFP profile of Paul Magnette, the man who may have torpedoed EU trade policy for good…
A decade ago Paul Magnette, the head of Belgium’s French-speaking region of Wallonia, was a ruggedly good-looking university professor best known for being versed in EU arcana.
Now the 45-year-old is an unexpected torch-bearer for the anti-free trade movement after using Belgium’s complex political system to hold up a huge EU-Canada deal, threatening the bloc’s global reputation in the process.
“There’s a real political pride in finally saying ‘stop’,” said Magnette,basking in the international limelight of a stance that is bringing attention to his cherished but downtrodden Wallonia.
Magnette was born in the Flemish-speaking town of Leuven, but grew up in Wallonia’s rustbelt city of Charleroi, once an industrial powerhouse but now a forgotten landscape of shuttered plants and factories.
Magnette was first and foremost an academic, a doctor of political science who taught Europe’s elite at the Sciences Po university in Paris and Cambridge in Britain.
For a while he was also a go-to analyst for journalists on the hunt for a quick quote on the euro or the future of Europe.
Everything changed in 2007, when Belgium’s socialist kingmaker, Elio DiRupo, plucked Magnette from obscurity and sent him on mission to Charleroi, where party veterans of the old school were mired in embarrassing corruptionscandals.
In just weeks, the cerebral intellectual became a hardball player of politics, whose handsome looks and three-day stubble also won him easy access to the nightly news.
Under the pressure, the socialist party apparatchiks stepped down and Magnette moved quickly into official office, first as health minister for Wallonia then as energy minister for the federal government in Brussels.
– ‘Trendy’ bread maker –
There he brazenly picked a fight with Electrabel, the highly profitable and powerful French-owned utility, winning a massive payout to beef up Belgium’s strained public finances.
In 2010 he became senator and two years later, the mayor of Charleroi, a job and a city he is very closely associated with, though he has given up day-to-day responsibilities as head of Wallonia.
With a noticeable gift for speech-making, the bow-tie wearing Di Rupo, who was then prime minister, made Magnette party leader to lead the charge for the socialists in the 2014 general elections.
Using his solid Dutch, he made many francophones proud, fighting bravely in a debate against Antwerp mayor and Flemish-nationalist Bart De Wever, Belgium’s most powerful and feared politician.
But the socialists fared poorly in 2014 and Di Rupo took back the reins ofthe socialist party. As consolation Magnette landed his current job, head ofgovernment of Wallonia.
Quickly, polls showed a rising leftist threat to his political hold on the region. For the past year the fight against the Canada deal known as CETA and the similar EU-US deal, known as TTIP, has helped shore up his leftwing credentials.
Magnette, despite the hard-won firebrand persona, still enjoys leisures more closely associated with his past in academia.
To find his focus, the twice-married father-of-four often wakes up at dawn a few to bake loaves of sourbread — organic, of course.
“Making bread is my way to relax,” he told L’Echo newspaper last year. “I know it’s trendy, but I can live with that.”
Wallonia has said No to the latest offer on CETA, we are hearing.
Theresa May has raised concerns about possible British exclusion from the Bratislava Roadmap.
Source: “There is a British concern between the articulation of the Bratislava Roadmap and the implementation of it, which is for all 28 (member states).
“In substance, there is no disagreement with that. There is a concern.The 27 (member states) can not agree something that the UK is supposed to just sign up to.”
As of now there has been no movement on Syria and Russia. It is being discussed now, according to sources.
Here is what the EU leaders are picking over as they discuss the big issues of the day:
Entrée: Noix de Saint-Jacques poêlées, mousseline de fèves et huile perlée Pan-fried scallops with broad bean mousseline and pearled oil
Plat principal: Couronne d’agneau, figue rôtie et légumes d’automne Crown of lamb with roast fig and autumn vegetables
Dessert: Parfait glacé à la vanille, cœur coulant au miel et crème de châtaigne Iced vanilla parfait with a liquid honey centre and chestnut cream
European Parliament President Martin Schulz said he did not see any signs of the unanimity necessary between member states to impose sanctions on Russia over the bombing of Aleppo.
At a press conference at the European Council, he also told reporters that he had had only “indirect contact” with Wallonia’s Paul Magnatte, who is leading the Belgian regional parliament’s resistance to the mooted EU-Canada trade deal.
“We feel we have a clear majority in favour of CETA,” he said, “We believe it is a good agreement.”
Schulz laughed when asked if there was too much democracy in the ratification process for CETA. It must be backed by every national parliament in the bloc, and the Walloons have wielded an effective veto by refusing to support it.
“That’s democracy”, he said, before pointing to EU trade deals with countries such as Colombia as proof the EU could deliver such deals.
Schulz repeated that there could be no negotiation with the British without the legal process taking the UK out of the EU being triggered.
He said British Prime Minister Theresa May would outline her idea of Brexit “at some point between the soup and the main course” of the leaders’ dinner.
EU ambassadors are due to meet at 8PM to discuss CETA, but Donald Tusk is less optimistic about saving the deal after his pre-summit meeting with Belgian PM Charles Michel.
Deeply concerned by difficult CETA situation. Still waiting for an answer. Credibility of Europe at stake.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 20, 2016
EUCO doorstep highlights
German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined those calling for a firm line against Russian aggression in Syria, saying “I hope that as the European Council we are able to firm up our view that what is happening with Russian support in Aleppo is completely inhuman with regards to the inhabitants of Aleppo. That is why there has to be work on a truce and not just one of a few hours followed by several hours of bombing but a permanent truce. […] I hope that our attitude becomes clear on this.”
Reporting by Reuters
EUCO doorstep highlights
European Council President Donald Tusk said, “We will discuss Russia and its role in Europe and in our neighbourhood. It is really difficult, even impossible to talk about this and not refer to the current attacks on civilians and hospitals in Aleppo. Today is not about decisions, but I want to underline that the EU should keep all options open, including sanctions if the crimes continue. “Finally I’ll be happy to welcome Prime Minister Theresa May today. Some media described her first meeting in the European council as entering the lion’s den. It is not true. It is more like a nest of doves, just look at me.”
Reporting by Reuters
EUCO doorstep highlights
British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “This is my first European Council and I’m here with a very clear message: The UK is leaving the EU but we will continue to play a full role until we leave and we’ll be a strong and dependable partner after we have left. It’s in the interests of both the UK and the EU that we continue to work closely together, including at this summit.
“We must show that robust and united European stance in the face of Russian aggression. The UK has put Russian actions in Syria on the agenda for this summit. We must continue to work together and it’s vital that we work together to continue to put pressure on Russia to stop its appalling atrocities, its sickening atrocities in Syria.”
Reporting by Reuters
What to do with a state like Russia?
“The EU should keep all options open, including sanctions if the crimes continue,” Tusk said as he arrived for an EU leaders summit dominated by a review of deeply strained relations with Moscow.
“It is really difficult if not impossible, not to refer this (discussion on Russia) to attacks on civilians and hospitals,” he added.
A draft of the summit conclusions seen by AFP earlier suggested EU leaders were weighing sanctions against backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Moscow is Assad’s strongest ally and came to his rescue last year when rebels appeared to be gaining ground.
“The EU is considering all options, including further restrictive measures targeting individuals and entities supporting the regime, should the current atrocities continue,” the draft said.
Russia had upstaged the summit by announcing earlier in the week that it would halt hostilities over Aleppo on Thursday just as the 28 leaders were gathering in Brussels.
It said Thursday it would extend the truce to 11 hours from eight, and then added that it would run for three days, not one.
Reporting by AFP
Brexit and EUCO
British Prime Minister Theresa May will seek to allay fears of the disruptive impact of Brexit after a wave of criticism when she addresses European Union leaders on Thursday at her first EU summit.
May will use the leaders’ working dinner in Brussels to confirm her plan to start formal exit talks by the end of March, paving the way for Britain to leave the bloc by early 2019.
May angered many member states by stating her intention to control EU migration into Britain, while at the same time seeking “maximum freedom” to operate in the EU’s single market.
European leaders have repeatedly said the two demands are incompatible, and have warned London should expect to pay a heavy price for its decision to leave.
The face-off has caused the pound to plunge to historic lows and raised global economic fears about the impact of a so-called hard Brexit.
May will make clear to EU leaders that Brexit is irreversible, saying there will be no second referendum, but will urge them to help make it work for both sides, a source in her office said.
May will hold her first bilateral meeting with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday after the summit. His spokeswoman described the talks as “introductory”.
May was excluded from the last EU summit in Bratislava last month, and a senior EU official said that there would be no debate after her address to leaders on Thursday.
In a sign of the complexity of the discussions ahead, May indicated Wednesday that she could seek to extend the negotiation process, telling lawmakers it might take “two years or more”.
In addition to infighting in her own party about what type of Brexit should be pursued, another domestic headache is Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU and whose nationalist government is threatening a second referendum on independence if it is forced to leave the single market.
Reporting by AFP
Oxfam International protest in a Brussels park ahead of the summit. “These life jackets stand for the thousands of children, women and men who have been attempting to reach Europe by sea. They are a reminder to European leaders of their responsibility to protect and help vulnerable people in search of a life in dignity and safety,” said Oxfam International Deputy Director for Advocacy and Campaigns Natalia Alonso.
Theresa May has turned up to the Council. Here’s what she said:
Good afternoon, this is my first European Council, and I am here with a very clear message: the UK is leaving the EU but we will continue to play a full role until we leave and we’ll be a strong and dependable partner after we’ve left. It is in the interests of both the UK and the EU that we continue to work closely together including at this summit. We must show a robust and united European stance in the face of Russian aggression. The UK has put Russian actions in Syria on the agenda for this summit. We must continue to work together – it’s vital that we work together to continue to put pressure on Russia to stop its appalling atrocities, its sickening atrocities in Syria.
European Union leaders will review the whole range of their “selective” cooperation with Russia – including on the Syria conflict – when they meet in Brussels today (20 October). Expanding EU sanctions on Moscow is off the table at this stage.
Moscow and Kiev agreed Wednesday (19 October) to end a deadlock on the conflict in eastern Ukraine by the end of November, Ukraine’s president said, after a four-way summit in Berlin with the leaders of France and Germany.
The Netherlands cannot block the European Union over the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association agreement, Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv told EurActiv.com in an exclusive interview.
If you are just joining the party, here is what the next two days is going to be all about, courtesy of European Council President Donald Tusk
Bulgaria and Romania have asked for written assurances by Ottawa yesterday (18 October) before removing their veto on the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada.
Moderate voices about the future of EU-Russia relations should prevail at a summit this week (20-21 October), Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Nikos Xydakis, told EurActiv.com.
With London and Brussels going head to head over Brexit, the EU’s leaders are eagerly awaiting Theresa May’s first European Council summit this week. EurActiv France reports.
Journalists of Brussels gave a collective cheer
Big news – EU summits will start on Thursday mornings from December, instead of 4pm insomnia marathons, sources say
— Danny Kemp (@dannyctkemp) October 19, 2016
The foreign ministers of the 28 EU countries have redefined yesterday (17 October) the Union foreign policy priorities for 2016 and the basis of its relations with Russia and the countries of the Eastern neighbourhood.