Brexit and Salisbury amongst the main issues discussed during the spring European Council

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{B6CD89C7-961E-4E78-854D-D1DFC2F04D51}.jpgThe spring European Council, meeting in an EU27 format, adopted the guidelines on the framework for a future relationship with the UK after Brexit.

The Commission’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, updated the EU27 heads of state or government on the state of play of the Brexit negotiations.

The EU declared as well that it wants to have the closest possible partnership with the UK, which would cover trade and economic cooperation, security and defence, among other areas. However, EU 27 leaders noted that UK’s current positions “limit the depth of such a future partnership”.

Heads of state or government also focused on economic affairs, in particular on trade and a number of other pressing issues, including the Salisbury attack, Turkey, the Western Balkans and taxation.

EU leaders strongly condemned the Salisbury attack and the use of chemical weapons under any circumstances. They expressed its deepest sympathies to all whose lives had been threatened, lent its support to the ongoing investigation, and stressed its unqualified solidarity with the UK.

The European Council agrees with the United Kingdom government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation.

European Council conclusions on the Salisbury attack, 22 March 2018

The European Council has requested High Representative Federica Mogherini to recall the Head of the EU Delegation in the Russian Federation for consultations in Brussels.

EU leaders called for strengthening the EU’s resilience to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear-related risks, including through closer cooperation between the European Union and its member states as well as NATO. The EU and its member states should reinforce their capabilities to address hybrid threats.

The European Council invited the European Commission and the High Representative to take this work forward and report on progress by the June European Council.

The European Council strongly condemned Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.

EU leaders called on Turkey to put an end to these actions and to respect Cyprus’ sovereign rights to explore and exploit its natural resources, in line with EU and international law. They also recalled Turkey’s obligation to respect international law and good neighbourly relations, and normalize relations with all EU member states including the Republic of Cyprus.

The European Council also expressed its grave concern over the continued detention of EU citizens in Turkey. It called for the swift and positive resolution of these issues.

Western Balkans

EU leaders discussed the EU-Western Balkans summit, which will take place in Sofia on 17 May 2018.  They confirmed that the Council will address enlargement issues by June.

Leaders of the 19 eurozone countries discussed long-term reforms of the economic and monetary union, including proposals such as the creation of a fiscal capacity for the eurozone.

“We are experiencing the most favourable economic situation since the introduction of the euro. It is therefore the best time to reflect strategically on our long-term ambitions. This is what today’s Euro Summit was all about”, said President Tusk after the meeting.

Leaders reaffirmed that the most urgent priorities are:

  • strengthening of the banking union
  • reform of the European Stability Mechanism

They said they would continue talks on these issues at the next Euro summit in June when they expect to take the first decisions.

Under the Leaders’ Agenda, EU leaders held debate on taxation, in particular in the digital economy. They focused on how to adapt taxations systems taking into account the growing digital economy, what more can be done to fight tax evasion and avoidance, and how best to ensure synergies at the EU and international level.

The digital economy is a challenge for our tax systems. Most importantly, the discussion confirmed all leaders’ desire to work further towards an effective and fair solution.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

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