WRAPUP – Final #EUCO summit yields few results and one major dispute

EU leaders will once again meet in Brussels to discuss a whole host of issues. [EUCO]

The 28 European Union leaders wrapped up a busy year with a two-day European Council summit, in which they agreed to open talks on future trade relations with the UK next year, extend sanctions on Russia and press ahead with defence cooperation.

But no conclusions were reached on migration and the ensuing dispute exposed a continuing divide between ‘old Europe’ and the new eastern members. Plans for a eurozone reform won another respite, with the sense of urgency dulled by the zone’s solid economic performance. Key discussions are pencilled in for March and June.

Daniela Vincenti 15/12/201718:27

This concludes our live coverage of the December summit, the last of 2017. The next rendez-vous of the EU’s heads of state and government will be on 23 February 2018 for an informal meeting on institutional issues (European Parliament composition and transnational lists) and a debate on the political priorities of the multi-annual financial framework (MFF).

Daniela Vincenti 15/12/201718:27

EU leaders hope for migration breakthrough by June

EU leaders are preparing for a difficult start to 2018 when heads of state weigh new measures to deal with illegal migration. But the European Commission and European Council leaders agree that they want to avoid putting migration proposals to a vote that could divide member states.

Dominique Ostyn 15/12/201717:51

Macron convinces Merkel to hold key debate on future of euro in March

Amid the political paralysis in Germany, EU leaders decided on Friday (15 December) to postpone for March a “strategic political discussion” on the future of the eurozone and adopt a ‘reform roadmap’ in June.

Daniela Vincenti 15/12/201717:47

The Brief: Money can’t buy you friends

Migration was confirmed to be the most divisive issue in European politics at the final 2017 EU summit. The Visegrad group (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) will pay €35 million, but calling this “solidarity” is ludicrous.

Daniela Vincenti 15/12/201717:26

Macron and Merkel give last warning to Poland

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will support the Commission if it decides to trigger Article 7 against Warsaw next week, the two told a joint press conference at the end of a two-day EU summit on Friday (15 December).

Daniela Vincenti 15/12/201717:26

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Daniela Vincenti 15/12/201716:45

Court in the Brexit cross-fire

Honour on both sides of the Channel may have been satisfied, for now. The EU has a promise from London that it will pay around €40 billion and sufficient guarantees on the rights of EU citizens and the Irish border. And Prime Minister Theresa May has a commitment from Brussels to begin talks on a successor EU-UK trade deal.

Samuel Morgan 15/12/201713:41

The European Council today adopted guidelines for the second phase of Brexit negotiations. Click here to see them in full.

Samuel Morgan 15/12/201711:55

Frédéric Simon 15/12/201710:34

First eurozone summit since 2013

A lot has been said about Macron’s calls for deep eurozone reforms being shelved until German coalition talks finally wrap up. And indeed, EU leaders are today expected to shelve big decisions until their June summit next year.

But today’s breakfast discussion is still significant because it is the first eurozone summit to take place since March 2013 when the crisis was still in full swing, according to an EU source. And even though no big announcements are expected, progress can still be made on steps to complete the banking union.

More broadly, the objective today is to agree on “a method” so that leaders can agree a clear “roadmap” for eurozone reforms at the June summit, the EU source added. And the fact that non-eurozone countries were invited is a sign that a composed discussion can now take place on the future of the single currency.

Samuel Morgan 15/12/201710:20

Czech PM wants to convince Juncker to abandon refugee quotas

The Czech Republic insists that it will not accept any refugees under the EU relocation system, despite a legal case brought by the European Commission.

Samuel Morgan 15/12/201708:14

EU leaders agree to roll over Russia sanctions ‘after intense discussion’

EU leaders yesterday (14 December) agreed to extend tough economic sanctions against Russia over its meddling in Ukraine for six months, EU Council President Donald Tusk said.

Samuel Morgan 15/12/201708:11

Click here to view the European Council’s conclusions in full.

Samuel Morgan 15/12/201707:46

EU to move Brexit talks forward after praise for May

EU leaders are expected to unlock the next stage of Brexit negotiations at a summit on Friday (15 December) after applauding British Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce proposals.

Samuel Morgan 15/12/201707:46

Polish PM expects ‘nuclear’ article 7 to be triggered next Wednesday

Poland’s new prime minister said on Thursday (14 December) that he expects the EU to impose unprecedented sanctions next week that could strip his government of its voting rights over its controversial court reforms.

Samuel Morgan 15/12/201707:25

'Bad news for enemies': EU leaders officially launch defence pact

Flanked by soldiers in combat dress, European leaders inaugurated on Thursday (14 December) a landmark defence cooperation pact that EU Council President Donald Tusk said was “bad news for our enemies”.

Samuel Morgan 15/12/201707:24

Bulgarian PM on Brexit: 'Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed'

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov took the liberty to comment on Brexit on the sidelines of the EU summit on Thursday (14 December), using language that obviously diverges from the common line adopted by the EU27.

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Catherine Stupp 15/12/201701:17

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk will not hold a joint press conference after tonight’s meeting, as they normally do after summits.

Other leaders also left without giving press conferences. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke to the Dutch press.

Catherine Stupp 15/12/201700:49

Outgoing Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern offered an explanation for why the difficult talks on migration dragged out tonight’s meeting:

“On the internal dimension of migration the views are not coming closer together overall, to put it nicely.”

Catherine Stupp 15/12/201700:43

Discussion on migration goes long

Leaders discussed migration for around two-and-a-half hours. An EU official said the atmosphere in the meeting room is “sober and frank”.

They start again tomorrow morning with a discussion on the economic and monetary union.

Catherine Stupp 14/12/201723:00

Conclusion on Jerusalem

The Council conclusions from today have now been updated with a short but clear position on Jerusalem.

“The EU reiterates its firm commitment to the two-state solution and, in this context, the EU position on Jerusalem remains unchanged,” the conclusions read.

US President Donald Trump recently announced that he will relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Daniela Vincenti 14/12/201721:34

Zoran Radosavljevic 14/12/201720:37

Tusk: EU leaders “united” on extending Russia sanctions.

Catherine Stupp 14/12/201720:03

The menu

Heads of state are discussing migration while dining on roasted langoustine with autumn vegetables mousseline and herb salad, and ballotine of capon with carrots and potato amandine.

For dessert, they’ll get into the Christmas spirit over a “festive log with a twist”.

And there are Italian and Maltese wines.

Zoran Radosavljevic 14/12/201720:02

Theresa May seeks to reassure EU27 that Brexit is on track.

EU to move Brexit talks forward after praise for May

EU leaders are expected to unlock the next stage of Brexit negotiations at a summit on Friday (15 December) after applauding British Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce proposals.

Catherine Stupp 14/12/201719:21

Leaders posed for photos with military representatives to inaugurate PESCO and the new phase in the EU defence union. And all of a sudden, that looked a lot like a European army.

Catherine Stupp 14/12/201719:16

Council conclusions

The European Council has published conclusions for today’s summit discussions on defense, education, culture, climate and social issues.

On defence, the leaders ask “the High Representative, the Commission and the Member States to bring work forward on military mobility, both in PESCO and in the context of EU-NATO cooperation.”

The part on social issues say they want to progress “swiftly on pending social files at EU level, and being ready to examine future initiatives announced by the Commission in its Work Programme for 2018”. They also included a reference to tackling the gender pay gap in the EU.

The longest part of the five-page document is on education: that takes up one-and-a-half pages—and it takes on several proposals from French President Emmanuel Macron. The leaders said they want to create around 20 ‘European universities’ by 2024 with degrees from universities in different countries. And they want to encourage language learning so that young people learn at least two foreign European languages.

There is only one short paragraph on climate change, backing the One Planet Summit in Paris, the COP23 in Bonn and the Paris climate agreement.

Now the leaders are on to dinner, where they’ll discuss Russia sanctions, Jerusalem and migration.

Catherine Stupp 14/12/201718:03

EU heads of state spent less than two hours discussing PESCO, education and social issues. Now time for the photo opp and then on to dinner.

Catherine Stupp 14/12/201717:53

Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Claude Juncker embraced warmly when they say each other at the summit.

Catherine Stupp 14/12/201717:07

EU leaders have wrapped up their discussion on the bloc’s increased defence cooperation with NATO with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. They will now continue talks on EU defence and PESCO, and on education and social policy.

Daniela Vincenti 14/12/201716:41

Oxfam calls on EU leaders to focus on human rights abuses not obsess about stopping migrants

EU leaders have to address the human rights abuses suffered by refugees and migrants within and at Europe’s borders, instead of obsessively focusing on stopping people arriving, said Oxfam’s EU Migration Policy Advisor, Raphael Shilhav.

“Europe should offer help for people in search of safety and dignity, including through more humanitarian visas and reuniting families.”

Daniela Vincenti 14/12/201716:25

Progressive PMs reject Tusk on migration

During their pre-summit meeting, centre-left EU leaders formally rejected European Council president’s proposal on migration. Donald Tusk has sent a letter to the leaders of the 28 member states this week in which he defined quotas as ”ineffective” and ”divisive”, sparking protests from many EU countries and an institutional clash with the EU executive.

PES president Sergei Stanishev, chairing the meeting, said: “We utterly reject Donald Tusk’s proposal to annul the responsibility-sharing agreement for managing migration flows. The reason the current system has not yet succeeded in addressing the problem is that it has not been fully and effectively implemented.

“Migration is a Europe-wide challenge, and as such it needs a coordinated Europe-wide solution, with solidarity and humanitarian values at its core. It would spell disaster if Europe were to retreat into numerous uncoordinated and conflicting national approaches,” Stanishev added.

Catherine Stupp 14/12/201716:07

Tsipras takes jab at Tusk

In an interview with Greek public television ERT3, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that EU Council President Donald Tusk’s remarks to abolish refugee quotas were “untimely, inappropriate and unnecessary”.

“This is a proposal that has little hope of being adopted at the summit,” the leftist premier said, making it clear that there is no way for Athens to accept any change in the current agreement.

Daniela Vincenti 14/12/201715:22

Mogherini: MFF will have to match the level of ambition on Defence and Security

Arriving at the EU summit, EU foreign chief, Federica Mogherini, hailed the signature of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) by 25 member states.

“We can now work at the establishment of a European facility for peace. I am going suggest that in the next Multi-annual Financial Framework we will set up the level of ambition we have on security and defence so that a Europe of defence and security is financed at the adequate level,” she said, stressing that it is not a militarisation of the European Union budget but a way to become more flexible, more agile and more operational whenever is needed.

“We see that around the world there is a strong need for the EU to become a point of reference as others are taking a different direction,”she added.

Samuel Morgan 14/12/201715:09

Frédéric Simon 14/12/201714:49

A dinner that could drag on a bit

We don’t know (yet) what food will be served but leaders will for sure have a lot on their plate. In fact, the dinner looks like it could be a little heavy on the stomach. One diplomat said the agenda was a bit busy and warned the dinner could drag on. Here’s what’s on the menu:

MIGRATION AND ASYLUM: This will be the main course – even though no official conclusions are expected. But the exchange promises to be heated, with Central and Eastern European countries expected to reiterate their rejection of EU quotas for asylum seekers. Leaders are expected to break off at some point before picking up the file again the next morning after getting some rest. One senior diplomat said he expected leaders to agree “a method” in order to revise the EU’s asylum policy at the June summit next year. The less divisive part of the dinner conversation is the situation in Libya, and the issues of slavery and human trafficking. Yummy.

MINSK AGREEMENT: Macron and Merkel will update leaders on ongoing talks with Russia as part of the Minsk agreement designed to maintain a semblance of peace in Ukraine. Behind that discussion is the recurring question of whether to renew economic sanctions on Russia. The impasse in Ukraine – if not the deterioration – suggests not much will change here. Still, this is a politically and economically charged topic that is never easy to swallow.

JERUSALEM: As a sweetener, EU leaders will have the opportunity to show a unified front in condemning Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The US President is decidedly the reliable unifying figure on which EU leaders can rest when they want to make up. (This is despite reservations from Czech PM Andrej Babis who initially seemed to back Trump’s move).

Samuel Morgan 14/12/201714:47

Daniela Vincenti 14/12/201714:34

Daniela Vincenti 14/12/201714:32

Today’s summit is a debut also for the Czech PM Andrej Babiš

Czechia’s Babiš takes office just in time for EU summit

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, a billionaire businessman who ran on an anti-establishment ticket, took office with his cabinet on Wednesday (13 December) but it was unclear whether his tenure will survive a confidence vote next month.

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Samuel White 14/12/201714:22

New Polish PM Morawiecki makes summit debut

Poland’s newly appointed Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will attend his first  European summit in Brussels on Thursday (14 December), where leaders and policymakers hope he will be more cooperative than his predecessor Beata Szydło, who resigned this week.

Samuel Morgan 14/12/201714:01

Council President Donald Tusk made the following remarks ahead of the summit

This summit is a very clear illustration of the fact that only when we are united can we successfully perform even the most difficult issues and tasks. Like with European defence, for example, or with Brexit. Today we are launching PESCO – an ambitious, inclusive, and very pragmatic project in the field of defence. And tomorrow we will also formally end our first phase of the Brexit negotiations. Both these achievements demanded courage, realism but – above all – our unity. By the way, I have no doubt that the real test of our unity will be the second phase of the Brexit talks.

Today and tomorrow we will also deal with issues where a lack of unity is very visible. As you know, I am talking about EMU and migration.

When it comes to EMU, the divide is – and sorry for this geographical simplification – between north and south, and when it comes to migration, it is between east and west. These divisions are accompanied by emotions which make it hard to find even a common language and rational arguments for this debate. This is why we should work on our unity even more intensively and more effectively than before.

Frédéric Simon 14/12/201713:53

Four summits for the price of one

This last summit of the year will in fact be four bundled into one. Here’s the rundown:

1) THURSDAY: A classic EU summit with the 28 heads of states and governments;

2) THURSDAY: A defence summit at 25 (those participating in the 17 different PESCO projects);

3) FRIDAY: A eurozone summit of the 19 countries that share the single currency (+8 aspiring new members);

4) FRIDAY: A Brexit summit at 27 (all EU members except the UK).

Samuel Morgan 14/12/201707:47

European parliament backs outline Brexit deal

The European Parliament urged EU leaders on Wednesday (13 December) to allow the next phase of EU negotiations to start, backing a motion that recognised the talks had made sufficient progress as a well a line criticising Britain’s Brexit negotiator David Davis.

Samuel Morgan 14/12/201707:23

Theresa May suffers major parliamentary defeat ahead of EU summit

Prime Minister Theresa May’s government was defeated yesterday (13 December), when lawmakers forced through changes to its Brexit blueprint that ministers said could endanger Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Samuel Morgan 14/12/201707:22

Brexit: The long and winding road

‘Live horse and you’ll get grass’ is an old Irish proverb used in the context of vague promises of future benefits. This is precisely where Ireland stands with the vague promises on the Irish border issue, writes Dick Roche.

Daniela Vincenti 13/12/201718:02

The Brief: The divisive solidarity of Europe

More than 7.000 refugees in the Greek island of Lesbos know that something is not working with the EU’s response to migration. While they weather winter temperatures in summer tents, with capacity for only 2,300 people, European leaders will hold tomorrow the eleventh discussion over a fancy dinner to try to fix one of their biggest dares, and yet unresolved.

Daniela Vincenti 13/12/201718:01

Macron shifts focus away from eurozone reform to court Merkel

French President Emmanuel Macron, concerned that a divisive discussion over eurozone reform might undermine his broader European agenda, has begun prioritizing other areas of EU cooperation, French officials say.

Daniela Vincenti 13/12/201717:59

Tensions arise between Tusk and Commission over migration

The Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos described on Tuesday (12 December) European Council President Donald Tusk’s proposals on migration intended for the EU leaders’ summit later this week as “unacceptable” and  “anti-European”.

Dominique Ostyn 13/12/201715:16

The European Parliament adopted its third Brexit resolution by a clear majority of more than 550 votes, thereby accepting that sufficient progress has been achieved in the first round of negotiations. The Parliament therefore recommends the initiation of the second phase of the negotiations to the Council.

Elmar Brok comments on the current state of the Brexit negotiations

Elmar Brok, European People’s Party’s (EPP) Brexit coordinator and Brexit-Sherpa for the European Parliament, said: “I welcome that we are entering the next phase of negotiations. The negotiated points are binding for the parties and will make the upcoming partnership negotiations possible. Maintaining last week’s agreements and their legally binding incorporation into the Withdrawal Agreement is crucial. Without this agreement, there cannot be a transitional arrangement or a trade agreement. Statements like that of Brexit Minister Davis should not destroy the mutual trust.”

Dominique Ostyn 13/12/201715:07

Commentary by the European Movement International :

Shaky Brexit negotiations head to second phase

This Friday, the European Council will meet to begin drafting guidelines on phase two of the Brexit negotiations, after the UK and the EU finally struck a working deal late last week concerning citizens’ rights, the UK’s financial obligations, and the Irish border. The development comes after multiple delays and setbacks since divorce talks began.

The tumultuous negotiations have cast a shadow of uncertainty on the future of citizens, businesses and all stakeholders involved in the UK and EU27 alike. Moving to the second phase of negotiations is a step in the right direction, but there is still much to discuss.

The second round of negotiations will cover the transition period and its conditions and the future relationship of the UK and the EU. The British and EU visions for this future still need to be harmonised. As European Council President Donald Tusk said, the most difficult challenge is ahead: “We all know that breaking up is hard. But breaking up and building a new relationship is much harder.”

> Read more

Dominique Ostyn 13/12/201715:05

EURACTIV reader on Social Europe:

‘Let’s do our work’ on social policy, Juncker tells member states

Europe’s credibility hinges on national leaders agreeing social legislation that applies across the bloc, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday (17 November) at a summit with leaders from EU countries in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Tackle the discrepancies of enlargement to build a genuine social model

To put vigour back into its social model, the discrepancies and contradictions which are the byproducts of the enlargement and deepening of the Union during the last twenty years need to be addressed, writes Alfred Sant.

Dominique Ostyn 13/12/201715:04

EURACTIV reader on Eurozone/monetary-fiscal union:

Brussels to unveil eurozone reform vision despite doubts

The European Commission will unveil a raft of ideas to reform the eurozone today (6 December), despite the resistance of powerful Germany, which remains without a government.

Eurozone needs to push on with banking, bailout reforms – Slovak finance minister

Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kazimir said on Saturday (28 October) the eurozone should speed up completion of a banking union and revamping a bailout fund as the window for reform is closing.

Commission wants single eurozone seat at IMF plan adopted by end of mandate

The European Commission is pushing for the adoption, by mid-2019, of the proposal to create a unified seat at the International Monetary Fund, as part of its package to strengthen the economic and monetary union presented on Wednesday (6 December).

Portugal scores again, landing Eurogroup presidency

Portuguese Finance minister Mário Centeno became on Monday the new president of the Eurogroup as he promised to bring consensus across the aisle to strengthen the eurozone. 

Dominique Ostyn 13/12/201715:03

EURACTIV reader on Defence/Pesco:

The Brief: Sowing the seed of the PESCO tree

The agenda of today’s mega-FAC meeting was so heavy that even EU policy nerds may have missed the news. Today the EU, or 25 countries out of 28 (all except the UK, Denmark and Malta), took the “historic decision”, as EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini put it, to establish PESCO.

Dubbed …

EU takes step towards closer defence cooperation

The EU took a major step towards building closer defence ties on Monday (13 November), with 23 member states signing a landmark agreement, promoted by France and Germany, to fund and boost cooperation following Britain’s decision to leave the bloc.

EU is moving closer together on defence

After the Brexit vote and Trumps election in 2016, the defence union came to the fore of the EU integration plans. The past EU summit showed that progress has obviously been made, writes Steffen Stiehle of EURACTIV Germany.

Dominique Ostyn 13/12/201715:01

EURACTIV reader on Brexit:

Brexit breakthrough as Commission says 'sufficient progress' made

Theresa May rushed to Brussels in the early hours of Friday morning (8 December), after the European Commission said all-night divorce talks had made “sufficient progress” to move on to the second phase of Brexit negotiations.

Brexit set to dominate UK politics for years ahead

In March, Michel Barnier told me he had offered the UK a two-year transition period after April 2019 in which Britain could trade freely without tariffs or duties, provided London accepted existing EU rules and laws on social protection, environment and rights of EU citizens. Denis MacShane explains.

Tories sleepwalk towards soft Brexit

The UK government was deluded when it thought reaching a deal would be easy. It is deluded now in underestimating the concession it has made, writes Conor Quinn.

Study: UK economy likely to suffer post-Brexit

The UK economy is likely to suffer for a decade after leaving the EU under the most probable post-Brexit trade scenarios, according to a new study from the RAND Corporation, made available to EURACTIV.com before publication.

Dominique Ostyn 13/12/201714:56

EURACTIV reader on Migration:

Tensions arise between Tusk and Commission over migration

The Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos described on Tuesday (12 December) European Council President Donald Tusk’s proposals on migration intended for the EU leaders’ summit later this week as “unacceptable” and  “anti-European”.

Migrants: 87% drop in arrivals in August, UN warns of risks to refugees

New statistics published by Italy’s Ministry of the Interior shows that arrivals have dropped by 10% since the beginning of the year, as asylum seekers are stopped at the Libyan border.

Mogherini: 'Illegal migration is a new form of slavery'

During a debate at the European Parliament on Tuesday (12 September), EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that illegal immigration managed by mafias is “a new form of slavery”. EURACTIV Spain reports.

Samuel Morgan 13/12/201714:35

Most important item will be migration

Diplomats told EURACTIV today that migration, to be discussed over dinner on Thursday, will be “the most challenging item” on the summit agenda. Conclusions are not envisioned, but there will be a “flush out” of positions, which will also serve as a basis for preparing, in the next year, the reform of the Dublin asylum system.

Given the differences of view on mandatory quotas, even at institutional level (between Council President Donald Tusk and European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos), this could be the single contentious item, EURACTIV was told.

“This will be a high-level political discussion which will form a basis for follow-up work for the Council in the first half of 2018”, a Western diplomat said, adding “It’s a matter of bridging the gap that exists between East and West, but also North and South. Donald Tusk is perfectly right to focus the discussion on this important issue at the heads’ level”. (Reporting by Georgi Gotev)

Tensions arise between Tusk and Commission over migration

The Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos described on Tuesday (12 December) European Council President Donald Tusk’s proposals on migration intended for the EU leaders’ summit later this week as “unacceptable” and  “anti-European”.

Samuel Morgan 13/12/201714:33

A bizarre summit, with two elephants in the room

The summit on 14 and 15 December is a bizarre one, diplomats say, one of them (from a Catholic country) calling it “unorthodox”. It combines three summits or even four in one: firstly, a summit at 28 proper, second, a dinner with no conclusions expected to be adopted, an Euro summit at 27, and thirdly, a summit at 27 to discuss Brexit-related issues.

The first elephant will be in the dinner room, when leaders will hold a very open and probably controversial discussion on migration. The name of the elephant is the “redistribution” of migrants, for which diplomats confess they have no idea what the possible compromise could be.

“If we do nothing, the elephant in the room will still be there. The discussion may deepen divisions”, a diplomat said.

The second elephant will attend the EMU discussion. “We all know what the elephant in the room is. The discussion will no doubt turn around the balance and equilibrium between risk production and risk sharing, and the possible ensuing steps that might be taken. We know what the progress is, we don’t expect any substantial progress”, a diplomat said. (Reporting by Georgi Gotev).