BREXIT, might have taken up most of the European Council media Agenda, however it was not the only item to be discussed. The EU leaders also discussed the issue of migration, internal security, climate change and its relations with Africa.
These are the conclusions of this week’s summit.
At the European Council (Art. 50) working dinner on 17 October 2018, EU27 leaders reviewed the state of the negotiations with the UK. Ahead of the meeting, Prime Minister Theresa May updated the leaders on the UK perspective of the negotiations.
EU27 leaders reaffirmed their full confidence in Michel Barnier as the negotiator and their determination to stay united. They also noted that, despite intensive negotiations, not enough progress has been achieved. The European Council (Art. 50) called on the Union negotiator to continue his efforts to reach an agreement in accordance with previously agreed European Council guidelines.
The leaders declared their readiness to convene a European Council, if and when the Union negotiator reports that decisive progress has been made.
EU leaders discussed the issue of migration. They took stock of the implementation of the decisions they had agreed at the June European Council and called for work to be continued on all elements.
The European Council stressed the need to further prevent illegal migration. It called for strengthened cooperationwith countries of origin and transit, particularly in North Africa, as part of a broader partnership.
Leaders called for the fight against migrant smugglers to be stepped up by:
- cooperating more with countries outside the EU
- creating a joint task force at Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre
- better monitoring and disrupting smugglers’ online communications
EU leaders invited the Council to develop a set of measures to this end by December.
They also invited the European Parliament and the Council to examine, as a matter of priority, the recent Commission proposals on the return directive, the asylum agency and the European border and coast guard.
The EU’s return policy was also discussed. The leaders said that more should be done to facilitate effective returns. Existing readmission agreements should be better implemented and new agreements and arrangements concluded.
EU leaders were briefed by the Austrian Council presidency on the reform of the EU asylum system and on the prospects for progress. They encouraged the presidency to continue its work in order to conclude it as soon as possible.
The European Council adopted conclusions on internal security, following the Leaders’ Agenda thematic debate in Salzburg on 20 September 2018.
Taking into account the recent cyber attacks against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, leaders called for further strengthening of the EU’s deterrence, resilience and response to hybrid, cyber as well as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats.
The European Council called for swift implementation of previous decisions. It also called for measures to:
- combat cyber and cyber-enabled illegal and malicious activities
- build strong cybersecurity
- prevent and respond effectively to radicalisation and terrorism
- provide resources to face new challenges posed by technological developments
- strengthen crisis management capacity
The European Council also emphasised the need to protect the Union’s democratic systems and provide rapid follow-up to a number of measures proposed by the Commission to combat disinformation, ahead of the 2019 European elections. The Commission will assess the implementation of the Code of Practice on disinformation by the end of the year. The European Council looks forward to the Action Plan for a coordinated EU response, to be presented by December 2018, as set out in its June conclusions.
Relations with Africa
The European Council adopted conclusions on external relations, focusing on the EU’s relations with Africa. Leaders agreed that cooperation should be taken to a new level, underpinned by the necessary resources, including through the European External Investment Plan and the EU Trust Fund for Africa. It welcomed the presentation of the Commission’s initiative for a new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs and called for actions to be taken forward, including through concrete proposals for member states’ involvement.
Following the informal Leaders’ discussion in Salzburg, the European Council welcomed the holding of the forthcoming first summit between the 28 EU member states and the League of Arab States, hosted by Egypt on 24-25 February 2019.
The European Council endorsed the Council conclusions on preparations for the December 2018 UN climate conference in Katowice and gave Poland its full support in organising COP24. The Council also recognised the negative impacts of climate change in the light of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
EU leaders met together with Eurogroup President Mário Centeno and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi for the Euro Summit in an inclusive format of 27 EU member states. They assessed the state of play of negotiations on the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) with a view to the Euro Summit in December.