European Council meets in Brussels
Angela Merkel calls for an end to barbarous actions in Syria
The European Council has strongly condemned the attacks on civilians in Aleppo and called for unhindered humanitarian access.
On the issue of migration, the EU heads of state and government continued to emphasis the need to tackle the root causes. EU industry is to be protected against unfair trade practices.
What did the European Council meeting achieve?
Ceasefire and swift humanitarian aid for Aleppo
The participants condemned the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo. The atrocities must be ended, they said. There must be a lasting ceasefire. The European Council is to work to get aid rapidly to the people on the ground. Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of "barbarous actions". The parties involved must be held accountable for their actions.
Angela Merkel said, "It is very clear that what is happening in Aleppo is a violation of international humanitarian law and human rights, and that those who are responsible must be held liable. The European Union has agreed to consider all available options."
Relations between the European Union and Russia
The European Council meeting also discussed future relations with Russia. French President François Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel reported on their meeting in Berlin with the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia. The Minsk agreements that are designed to bring peace to eastern Ukraine must be implemented.
Commenting on the relations between the EU and Russia, Angela Merkel said, that on the one hand the EU has good relations with Russia, but on the other there must be frank and open talks with Russia about the disastrous situation in Syria. In the EU there is a consensus with respect to the strategic options vis à vis Russia, she said. "But we also see that the power options, and the way Russia sees itself at present, are not geared to partnership but to expanding its own sphere of influence," reported the Chancellor.
At the close of the meeting the Chancellor stressed that it would be wrong to say that she was losing patience with President Putin. "Political problems can only be resolved with patience." But what is happening in Aleppo is inhuman. It is something for which "it is difficult to find words".
Addressing the root causes of migration together
In the conclusions in the field of external relations and migration, the EU heads of state and government describe the new European Border and Coast Guard as an important step towards effectively protecting Europe’s external borders. They called on the European Commission to swiftly produce revised Schengen provisions.
Angela Merkel reported, "We have made it very clear that as regards the protection of the external border, we wish to return to Schengen, but that we nevertheless need temporary controls at internal borders – because this protection is not yet fully effective - so as to take account of current needs. Naturally, though, we wish to try to return to Schengen, step by step." The new European Border and Coast Guard is "a success", declared the Chancellor.
Extending migration partnerships
So that fewer people from Africa, for instance, come to Europe, the EU states intend to enter into Partnership Frameworks of cooperation with African states. The Chancellor has long been working for specially tailored migration partnerships with the countries of origin and transit states used by migrants. Agreements of this sort are already in place with Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia.
The partnerships with major countries of origin and transit countries are not simply development projects. "They do have something to do with illegal migration and with how we can improve the living conditions of people in these countries, and thus prevent illegal migration," explained Angela Merkel.
The European Commission this week chalked up its first successes. The number of people leaving the transit state Niger on their way to Europe has dropped.
What are migration partnerships? Participating states undertake to cooperate more closely in the field of migration. The EU aims to focus the activities of the EU and its member states, and to coordinate migration policy with development and trade policy. Closer cooperation has already been agreed with Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia.
CETA agreement within reach
The participants declared themselves optimistic that it will prove possible to sign the CETA free trade agreement with Canada next week. To ensure that this can come about, negotiations will continue between the EU, Canada, the Belgian government and the regional government of the Belgian region of Wallonia.
To protect European industry from unfair trade practices, protective instruments are to be developed. The ministers of trade will be dealing with this.