EU leaders discuss migration crisis, fight against terrorism, and Britain’s reform demands

European leaders met in Brussels on December 17 and 18 to discuss the migration crisis, the fight against terrorism, and Britain’s reform demands.

The meeting was also the occasion for Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, to hand over the presidency to Mark Rutte, Dutch Prime Minister.The Netherlands will chair the Council from January 2015 onward.

In order to tackle the unprecedented flows of refugees in 2015, the EU has set out a comprehensive strategy and is fully engaged in solving the most pressing issues.

According to a report by the Luxembourg Presidency, implementation has been advancing rapidly in some areas, but significant gaps still remain.

European Council took stock of the implementation of the decisions already taken and agreed to speed up actions on the operation of hotspots, the implementation of the relocation decisions and returns, the control of the EU’s external borders and cooperation with countries of origin and transit.

EU leaders also asked the Council to rapidly examine the European Commission’s proposal of strengthening the EU’s external borders released on 15 December.

The timeline outlines the main measures taken by the EU, together with the member states, over the last few months, to address the challenges created by migration.

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, the EU must step up even more its action against terrorism. The European Council discussed further actions in terms of exchange of information and terrorism financing, control at the external borders, conditions leading to terrorism, the prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism, counter terrorism cooperation with third countries.

Leaders welcomed the agreement on a directive on the use of passenger name record (PNR) and called for its rapid implementation.

EU leaders also discussed economic issues. They focused on the main points of the Five President’s report on the Economic and Monetary Union, released last June.

Further to the Commission communication “Upgrading the single market: more opportunities for people and business”, the European Council called for the completion of the European single market in all its dimensions and accelerate the implementation of the the digital single market and the capital markets union. It also stressed the importance to reach a successful deal on TTIP negotiations.

EU leaders welcomed the historic climate deal that was agreed at the COP21 in Paris, and called to accelerate work on an energy union with a forward-looking climate policy.

Finally, European Council finished by adopting conclusions on Syria, Libya, and refugee funding. The proposal to roll over sanctions on Russia for another 6 months was decided by Coreper today [Dec. 18].

In his statement following the meeting, EU Council President Donald Tusk said: “[W]e had a serious political discussion about completing the Economic and Monetary Union. The European Central Bank President Mario Draghi also joined us and has stressed the need for progress. We have one clear message from our debate: there is no time for complacency in reforming the eurozone. We stand ready to take difficult decisions on banking union and economic governance in the coming year. Our ministers will work rapidly and report to us next June.

We congratulated President Hollande on the historic success of COP21 in Paris and assessed progress on building the Energy Union. We discussed the conditions that need to be met by major energy infrastructure projects. What we have agreed is that any new infrastructure should be fully in line with Energy Union objectives, such as reduction of energy dependency and diversification of suppliers, sources and routes. Not to mention the obvious obligation that all projects have to comply with all EU laws, including the third Energy Package. This is a clear condition for receiving support from the EU institutions or any Member State – be it political, legal or financial.”

Photo: EU Audiovisual service