Leaders made progress on the future EU budget, Euro area reform, migration, fight against disinformation; EU27 united on Brexit
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker i participated yesterday and today in the European Council where EU leaders, in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility, made progress on key issues such as the next Multiannual Financial Framework, strengthening the Economic and Monetary Union and tackling challenges related to migration and disinformation.
EU budget for 2021-2027
Leaders had a first substantial exchange of views on the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and in their conclusions called on the incoming Romanian presidency to continue the intensive work and develop an orientation for the next stage of the negotiations. Leaders aim to reach an agreement in the European Council in autumn 2019. At the concluding press conference, President Juncker said: “I am grateful to the Austrian Presidency for having advanced the negotiations on Multiannual Financial Framework: never have we seen so much and quick progress in the negotiations. The negotiation box on the table will allow us to make further progress swiftly.”
EU leaders discussed preparations for the upcoming summit with the League of Arab States on 24 and 25 February 2019. Chancellor Merkel and President Macron briefed leaders on the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Given that no progress has been made, the European Council decided to roll over the economic sanctions against Russia. Leaders expressed their utmost concern regarding the escalation at the Kerch Straits and the Azov Sea. They called for the immediate release of all detained Ukrainian seamen as well as the return of the seized vessels and free passage of all ships through the Kerch Straits.
The European Council welcomed the positive vote in the European Parliament on the EU-Japan trade deal and looked forward to its imminent entry into force. As President Juncker said: “I am proud that we got the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement done. It creates the biggest trade zone in the world, covering 635 million people, boosting exports of EU services and goods by 13%, contributing to 175,000 new jobs in Europe.”
After listening to Prime Minister May’s presentation on the state of play of the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, EU27 leaders met in the European Council Article 50 format. They reconfirmed the conclusions of 25 November 2018, in which they endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and approved the Political Declaration.
The European Council underlined that the backstop was intended as an insurance policy to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland and ensure the integrity of the single market. "If the backstops were nevertheless to be triggered, it would apply temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement that ensures that a hard border is avoided," said EU27 Leaders in the conclusions. Leaders also discussed their preparedness for a no-deal scenario.
President Juncker said: "Brexit can never be a happy event. We are still sad that the British decided to leave the European Union but we are trying to accommodate our own views and the British views. But we are not yet there.[…] Comme nous ne savons pas quelles seront les réactions collectives de l’Europe des 27 et du Royaume Uni, la Commission va publier en date du 19 décembre toutes les informations généralement utiles qui concernent la préparation d’un no-deal - preparedness. It is prepared. We will publish these documents on 19 December. I told Donald Tusk and the European Council that this is our intention."
Following the mandate given in June 2018 to the Eurogroup, the Euro Summit adopted a statement and endorsed all the elements of the Eurogroup report to Leaders on EMU deepening, which was prepared in an inclusive format. This comprehensive package paves the way for a significant strengthening of the EMU.
At the press conference President Juncker said: "Le Conseil européen s'est mis d'accord sur le fait de poursuivre les travaux sur la base de la proposition de la Commission qui fut issue fin mai de cette année, quitte à ce que des amendements soient possibles, ce qui est la procédure législative normale.[…] Donc je suis assez content de la discussion d'aujourd'hui bien que j'aurais souhaité qu'il y ait une génération spontanée pour dire oui à la fonction stabilisatrice que nous proposons et dont je vous dis aujourd'hui qu'évidemment elle trouvera entrée dans le programme pluriannuel financier parce qu'une zone monétaire ne peut pas vivre sans des instruments qui permettent de réagir aux chocs externes."
In particular, Leaders endorsed the terms of reference of the common backstop to the Single Resolution Fund, which set out how the backstop will be operationalised, and anticipated provided sufficient progress has been made in risk reduction, to be assessed in 2020.
The Euro Summit also endorsed the term sheet on the European Stability Mechanism reform. On that basis, Leaders asked the Eurogroup to prepare the necessary amendments to the ESM Treaty (including the common backstop to the Single Resolution Fund) by June 2019.
Leaders called to advance work on the Banking Union and for ambitious progress by Spring 2019 on the Capital Markets Union, as outlined in the Eurogroup report to Leaders.
The Euro Summit also took note of the communication of the Commission on a stronger international role of the euro and encouraged work to be taken forward to this end.
Following its conclusions of March 2018, and based on the Commission's assessment of remaining barriers and options for action to tackle these barriers, the European Council reviewed the state of play regarding a fully functioning Single Market. The European Council invited the European Parliament and the Council to agree, before the end of the current legislature, on as many of the pending proposals relevant for the Single Market as possible. It is also important to remove remaining unjustified barriers, in particular in the field of services, as well as to prevent any new barriers and any risk of fragmentation.
The European Council focused on the implementation of its comprehensive approach to migration, in accordance with its conclusions of June 2018. The European Council invited the co-legislators to rapidly conclude negotiations on the European Border and Coast Guard. Leaders welcomed the agreement reached at the level of the Council on 6 December 2018 with regard to enhancing the European Border and Coast Guard mandate in the area of return and cooperation with third countries. The European Council also called for further efforts to conclude negotiations on the Return Directive, on the Asylum Agency and on all parts of the Common European Asylum System, respecting previous European Council conclusions and taking into account the varying degree of progress on each of these files. President Juncker called for further progress on beefing up the European Border and Coast Guard agency by equipping it with a standing corps of 10,000 border guards: “The elephant in the room is hypocrisy: all say they want better external border protection. The European Commission put proposal on the table. So I am surprised by the resistance of some Member States.”
EU leaders also reverted to the issue of disinformation, on the basis of the Action plan presented by the High Representative Federica Mogherini and the Commission, in cooperation with the member states and in line with its earlier conclusions. The European Council stressed the need for a determined response, that addresses the internal and external dimensions and that is comprehensive, coordinated and well-resourced on the basis of an assessment of threats.
Further to the presentation of the Commission Communication "A Clean Planet for all" and taking into account the outcome of COP24 in Katowice, the European Council invited the Council to work on the elements outlined in the Communication.
EU leaders assessed the outcome of Citizens' Dialogues and Citizens' Consultations held in the EU member states. The European Council welcomed the holding of Citizens' Dialogues and Citizens' Consultations, which was an unprecedented opportunity to engage with European citizens and which could serve as an inspiration for further consultations and dialogues. At their informal meeting in Sibiu on 9 May 2019, Heads of State or Government will discuss priorities for the next institutional cycle, with a view to agreeing on the next Strategic Agenda in June 2019.