Conclusions on the latest developments regarding the EU’s migration policy [+Turkey] – relations with Russia – situation in Syria
European Council conclusions on migration
1. The European Council took stock of the latest developments concerning the EU’s comprehensive migration policy, highlighting the importance of implementation. The debate focused in particular on the external dimension.
Protecting the external borders
2. The entry into force of the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation on 6 October and national efforts are important steps in strengthening control of our external borders and getting ‘back to Schengen’ by adjusting the temporary internal border controls to reflect the current needs. Member States are now deploying staff and equipment to the European Border and Coast Guard, so as to reach full capacity for rapid reaction and returns by the end of the year.
3. The European Council calls for a swift adoption of the revised Schengen Borders Code enforcing systematic controls on all travellers crossing EU external borders and calls on the Council to establish its position on an entry/exit system before the end of 2016. It looks forward to the forthcoming Commission proposal for setting up a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), to allow for advance security checks on visa-exempt travellers and deny them entry where necessary.
Tackling migratory flows
(a) Preventing illegal migration along the Central Mediterranean route
4. More efforts are needed to stem the flows of irregular migrants, in particular from Africa, and to improve return rates. Recognising the significant contribution, including of financial nature, made by the frontline Member States in recent years, the European Council:
* recalls the importance of continuing to work towards the implementation of a Partnership Framework of cooperation with individual countries of origin or transit, with an initial focus on Africa. Its objective is to pursue specific and measurable results in terms of preventing illegal migration and returning irregular migrants, as well as to create and apply the necessary leverage, by using all relevant EU policies, instruments and tools, including development and trade;
* recalls the need to tackle the root causes of migration in the region, including by supporting displaced persons in the region, thus helping to prevent illegal migration, and underlines the contribution of the Valletta Action Plan and the proposed External Investment Plan in this context. It welcomes the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and calls on all global actors to shoulder their responsibilities in this respect;
* takes note of the Commission’s “First progress report on the Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda on Migration”;
* calls on the High Representative, including in her role as Vice-President of the Commission, to present at the December European Council meeting progress with the five selected African countries and the first results achieved in terms of arrivals and returns. It will set orientations for further work on compacts and consider extending the approach to other countries;
* invites all actors to continue close cooperation on the compacts with a view to intensifying operational delivery, and Member States to reinforce national administrative processes for returns.
(b) Maintaining and tightening control of the Eastern Mediterranean route
5. A lasting stabilisation of the situation on the Eastern Mediterranean route requires the further implementation of the EU-Turkey statement and continued support for countries along the Western Balkans route. The European Council calls for:
* further efforts to accelerate returns from the Greek islands to Turkey, in line with the EU-Turkey statement, in particular by enhancing the efficiency and speed of asylum procedures;
* the rapid appointment of permanent coordinators in the Greek hotspots;
* Member States to respond in full to the calls for resources identified by the relevant EU agencies as being necessary to assist Greece;
* further progress on the full range of commitments vis-à-vis all Member States contained in the EU-Turkey statement, including as regards visa liberalisation. Co-legislators are invited to reach agreement within the next few weeks on the revision of the suspension mechanism applied to visas.
6. The European Council welcomes the progress made on developing compacts with Lebanon and Jordan to enhance support for refugees and host communities in both countries, and the signing of the “EU-Afghanistan Joint Way Forward on Migration Issues” on 2 October to tackle challenges linked to irregular migration and improve practical cooperation on returns, readmission and reintegration.
(c) Remaining vigilant about other routes
7. The EU will continue cooperation with other countries and closely monitor flows along other migration routes, including the Western Mediterranean, so as to be able to rapidly react to developments.
Addressing other elements of the comprehensive strategy
8. The European Council calls upon:
* EASO to ensure that the asylum intervention pool becomes operational as soon as possible to support at any time and in sufficient numbers frontline Member States. To that effect, Member States will communicate as soon as possible the necessary experts to EASO and EASO will complement Member States’ efforts by providing the necessary training and by contracting as required additional experts or services, with the support of the Commission;
* Member States to further intensify their efforts to accelerate relocation, in particular for unaccompanied minors, and existing resettlement schemes[ This is without prejudice to the position of Hungary and Slovakia, as contained in the Court proceedings launched relating to Council Decision n°2015/1601, and to the position of Poland, which has intervened in support of the applicants.];
* the Council to agree before the end of the year on its position on the External Investment Plan, which is aimed at boosting investments and job creation in partner countries, with a view to swift agreement with the European Parliament in the first half of 2017.
9. The European Council also calls for work to be continued on the reform of the Common European Asylum System, including on how to apply the principles of responsibility and solidarity in the future. The European Council will revert to the issue in December.
European Council conclusions on external relations,
20. The European Council strongly condemns the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo. It calls on them to bring the atrocities to an end and to take urgent steps to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to Aleppo and other parts of the country. The European Council calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for resumption of a credible political process under UN auspices. Those responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be held accountable. The EU is considering all available options, should the current atrocities continue. Everything should be done to extend the ceasefire, bring in humanitarian aid to the civilian population and create the conditions for opening negotiations on a political transition in Syria.
20. Le Conseil européen condamne avec force les attaques perpétrées par le régime syrien et ses alliés, notamment la Russie, contre des civils à Alep. Il les exhorte à mettre un terme aux atrocités et à prendre d’urgence des mesures pour faire en sorte que l’aide humanitaire puisse être acheminée sans entraves à Alep et dans d’autres parties du pays. Le Conseil européen demande la cessation immédiate des hostilités et la reprise d’un processus politique crédible, sous les auspices des Nations unies. Ceux qui se sont rendus coupables de violations du droit international humanitaire et du droit international relatif aux droits de l’homme doivent répondre de leurs actes. L’UE envisage toutes les options disponibles, si les atrocités commises actuellement devaient se poursuivre. Tout devrait être mis en œuvre pour prolonger le cessez-le-feu, apporter l’aide humanitaire à la population civile et créer les conditions propices à l’ouverture de négociations relatives à une transition politique en Syrie.
21. The European Council invites the High Representative to continue, together with the Commission, pursuing the EU humanitarian initiative and medical evacuations in cooperation with the UN; and to reach out to key actors in the region on a political transition and on preparations for post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction.
21. Le Conseil européen invite la haute représentante à continuer, avec la Commission, à œuvrer à l’initiative humanitaire de l’UE et à l’organisation des évacuations sanitaires en coopération avec les Nations unies, ainsi qu’à dialoguer avec les principaux acteurs de la région concernant une transition politique et les préparatifs à mener en vue de la réconciliation et de la reconstruction après le conflit.
22. The European Council held a strategic policy debate on relations with Russia.
22. Le Conseil européen a tenu un débat d’orientation stratégique sur les relations avec la Russie.
Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the first day of the European Council meeting
Irregular flows on the Central Mediterranean route, that is from Africa to Italy, remain far too high and actually haven’t changed for the last two years. That is why we discussed how to enhance our cooperation with Africa. The High Representative presented her diplomatic efforts with five priority countries, namely Senegal, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Ethiopia. The goal is to prevent illegal migration to Italy and to the rest of Europe, and to ensure effective returns of irregular migrants. The High Representative was given our support and will assess progress in December.
When it comes to the Eastern Mediterranean route, the situation has improved, with a 98% drop in arrivals since last year. That is why leaders could discuss getting back to Schengen. We all agreed that the goal is to lift temporary border controls over time, which will be accompanied by the reinforcement of the external borders. Leaders also discussed the question of solidarity among Member States during this crisis. We will consider concrete proposals in December, but the important thing today was to agree that there would be no solidarity a la carte. We will be working on effective solidarity instead.
This evening we had a broad discussion about Russia. Leaders emphasised all sorts of Russian activities, from airspace violations, disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks, interference into the political processes in the EU and beyond, hybrid tools in the Balkans, to developments in the MH17 investigation. Given these examples, it is clear that Russia’s strategy is to weaken the EU. We have a sober assessment of this reality, and no illusions. Increasing tensions with Russia is not our aim. We are simply reacting to steps taken by Russia. Of course the EU is always ready to engage in dialogue. But we will never compromise our values or principles. That is why leaders agreed to stay the course. And above all to keep the unity of the EU.
I want to make one specific point on the MH17 investigation. Leaders expressed their full support for the Dutch government in the ongoing investigation. All States that are in a position to assist the investigation and prosecution of those responsible, must do so.
Leaders also discussed Syria. They strongly condemned the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo. The EU is calling for an end to the atrocities and an immediate cessation of hostilities. It will consider all available options, if these atrocities continue. We have asked the High Representative to pursue further diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.
Finally, let me say that we were glad to welcome Prime Minister May to her first European Council. Prime Minister May confirmed that the UK will invoke Article 50 before the end of March next year. There will be no negotiations until Article 50 is triggered by the UK so we didn’t discuss Brexit tonight. However, the basic principles and rules, namely the Single Market and indivisibility of the four freedoms, will remain our firm stance.
Remarks by President Donald Tusk before the European Council meeting
The negotiations are still going on, as we speak. I hope that Belgium will once again prove that it is a true champion in compromise-making; and that on Friday we will have an agreement that will pave the way for signing CETA. But the question goes beyond. CETA If we are not able to convince people that trade agreements are in their interest, if we are not able to convince them that our representatives negotiate FTAs to protect people’s interests, then we will have no chance to build public support for free trade. Which means, I am afraid, that CETA [STOP CETA Movement] could be our last free trade agreement. That is also why we need effective tools to protect ourselves against unfair trade practices; and this is why the discussion on trade defence instruments is so important today.
We will also discuss Russia and its role in Europe and our neighbourhood. It is difficult, even impossible to talk about this, and not refer to the current attacks on civilians and hospitals in Aleppo. Today is not about decisions, but I want to underline that the EU should keep all options open, including sanctions, if the crimes continue.
Finally, let me say that I’ll be very happy to welcome Prime Minister Theresa May today. Some media described her first meeting in the European Council as entering the lion’s den. It’s not true. It’s more like a nest of doves. She’ll be absolutely safe with us. And I hope that she will also realise that the European Union is simply the best company in the world.