European Council in Brussels

Responding to international crises

What’s at stake this time in Brussels? Heads of state and government intend to discuss elimination of root causes of migration and flight. They also will coordinate their positions on foreign policy matters. Focus is on the relationship of the European Union (EU) with Russia regarding developments in Syria and the Ukraine conflict.

sWhat do we want to achieve? Germany seeks further progress of a European solution in the area of refugee policy. The aim is to curb illegal immigration to Europe. The most important second item on the agenda concerns relations of the EU with Russia.

Consolidating migration partnerships with third countries

Why is that important? In order to curb refugee flows to Europe, the EU states intend to conclude partnership agreements with African countries. The Chancellor has long sought to develop tailor-made partnerships with countries of migration origin and transit. At the summit, she will report on her trip to Africa.

In migration partnerships, the participating states undertake to engage in closer cooperation in the area of migration. The EU pursues the aim of pooling activities of the EU and its member states and coordinating migration policy with development and trade policies. Partnerships with key countries of migration origin and transit should help save human lives at sea, persuade migrants to return to their countries, provide incentives for migrants and refugees to remain in regions closer to their home countries, as well as to support third countries in their development.

What has been accomplished already? The EU and the European Commission have recorded initial successes this week. The number of departures from the transit country of Niger with the destination of Europe has receded. Agreements have already been concluded on closer cooperation with Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia. Even at this early stage, 400 million euros have been made available to Africa through the EU Trust Fund. Moreover, the EU and European Commission have allocated an additional 500 million euros.

What is the next step? The EU and the European Commission intend to promote foreign investments in third countries by a new investment plan. To this end, 3.1 billion euros are to be allocated. As is already the case for the Investment Plan for Europe, the Commission estimates a preliminary figure of up to 31 billion euros through leverage of total investments.

Relations of the European Union with Russia

Why is this important? The situation in Syria and in eastern Ukraine compels us to enter into talks with Russia. At present, it is crucial to stop Syrian and Russian air attacks on helpless people and hospitals in Syria. As for the Ukraine crisis, efforts must be continued to achieve progress at last in implementing the Minsk agreements. The German government has underlined its commitment to a sustained ceasefire, to disengaging troops and to take steps towards elections in the Donbass.

What is the next step? In Brussels, heads of state and government intend to discuss relations of the EU with Russia without, however, taking decisions. Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande will report on their Berlin meeting with Russian President Putin and Ukrainian President Poroshenko regarding Ukraine and Syria.

After the meeting of Chancellor Merkel with Hollande, Poroshenko and Putin Wednesday evening, Merkel said: “No miracles were achieved today.” However, she added that progress had been achieved on agreeing on a road map for a peaceful solution that should advance the Minsk Process.

Chancellor Merkel has always emphasised that current sanctions against Russia are not an end in themselves. She said they were a response to the annexation of Crimea in contradiction of public international law as well as to Russian destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; they would stay in force as long the reasons for their establishment remain. The Minsk package of measures has set clear requirements to dispel these reasons.

According to Merkel, there was a “very open and difficult debate” on Syria. Bombardments in Aleppo, she said, were inhumane and a “horrifying experience” for the population. She added that Russia bore clear responsibility for exerting influence on Syrian President Assad. Human lives in the country, as well as the future of the political process, must be borne in mind.

Course of events: the Summit begins on Thursday at around 4 p.m. On the first Summit day, heads of state and government will hold talks on implementation of the “Bratislava timetable”; in addition, migration and foreign policy matters will be discussed. During an evening dinner, British Prime Minister May will report on the current status of the Brexit procedure. In the evening, Chancellor Merkel will answer questions of journalists at a press conference. On Friday, the second Summit day, talks on trade policy and economic issues will continue. The European Council meeting is to end towards midday with the concluding press conference.

A Good Future for the European Union

What is the next step? After the referendum in Great Britain on exiting the EU, the heads of state and government of the 27 member states agreed in Bratislava on a timetable. They launched a process of reflection on renewal of the EU and plan to achieve results by the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome in March 2017. The Slovak presidency will report on the status of the process.

Of economic significance is promotion of EU foreign trade with non-EU states. Heads of state and government will deal with trade policy and discuss the TTIP and CETA free trade agreements. The free trade agreement with Canada is to be signed at the EU-Canada Summit on October 27-28. During talks on economic matters, key projects of the internal market will also be addressed, such as implementation of the digital single market and capital market.



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