The European Council takes more measures to stem illegal migration

Council of the European Union of 28/29 June 2018; a difficult moment. From left to right: Mark Rutte, Dutch Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, German Federal Chancellor, Emmanuel Macron, President of France. Shoot location: Bruxelles – Belgium. Shoot date: 29/06/2018. Copyright: European Union

At last the 28 EU leaders in the early hours of today found common grounds and instituted the broad lines of an EU migration policy accepted by all. The content below – the full text of the European Council’s decision – is brought to you in association with the Council of the European Union. This is what the 28 EU leaders decided:

Main results

The European Council on Thursday 28 June focused on migration, security and defense, as well as economic and financial affairs. On Friday 29 June EU leaders will reconvene to address Brexit (in an EU 27 format) and eurozone (Euro Summit format).

Infographic – Migration flows: Eastern, Central, and Western Mediterranean routes

See full infographic

Migration

The European Council called for further measures to stem illegal migration and prevent a return to the uncontrolled flows of 2015.

The European Council reconfirms that a precondition for a functioning EU policy relies on a comprehensive approach to migration which combines more effective control of the EU’s external borders, increased external action and the internal aspects, in line with our principles and values.

European Council conclusions, 28 June 2018

Leaders agreed, that this is a challenge not only for a single member state, but for Europe as a whole.

Since 2015 a number of measures have been put in place to achieve the effective control of the EU’s external borders. As a result, the number of detected illegal border crossings into the EU has been brought down by 96% from its peak in October 2015.

Regarding the Central Mediterranean route, EU leaders agreed to:

  • step up efforts to stop migrant smugglers operating out of Libya or elsewhere
  • continue to support Italy and other frontline member states
  • increase its support for the Sahel region, the Libyan coastguard, coastal and Southern communities, humane reception conditions and voluntary humanitarian returns
  • enhance cooperation with other countries of origin and transit as well as voluntary resettlement

About the Eastern Mediterranean Route, EU leaders stressed the need to fully implement the EU-Turkey Statement, prevent new crossings from Turkey and bring the flows to a halt.

They also called for more efforts to ensure swift returns and to prevent the development of new migratory routes. They also reaffirmed the need to continue working closely with Western Balkans partners.

EU leaders agreed to support efforts to prevent illegal migration in the Western Mediterranean where irregular arrivals are on the rise. This include efforts by member states as well as countries of origin and transit, in particular Morocco.

EU leaders also supported the development of a concept of regional disembarkation platforms for people saved at sea by search and rescue operations. Such platforms, suggested by UNHCR and IOM, should allow to rapidly and safely distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection.

EU heads of state or government agreed that on EU territory, those who are saved, should be taken charge of, on the basis of a shared effort, through the transfer in controlled centres. These centres are to be set up in member states, only on a voluntary basis, and should provide rapid and secure processing allowing to distinguish between irregular migrants, who will be returned, and those in need of international protection, for whom the principle of solidarity would apply.

The European Council agrees on launching the second tranche of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey and at the same time on transferring 500 million euro from the 11th EDF reserve to the EU Trust Fund for Africa.

EU leaders also highlighted the importance of a partnership with Africa, which would not only require increased development funding but also steps towards creating a new framework enabling an increase of private investment from both Africans and Europeans.

In addition, leaders called for a new dedicated external migration management facility to be included under the next EU long term budget (MFF).

The European Council recalled the need to ensure the effective control of the EU’s external borders and to step up the effective return of irregular migrants. It welcomed the intention of the Commission to make legislative proposals for a more effective and coherent European return policy.

Concerning the internal situation, member states should take all the necessary measures to prevent secondary movements of asylum seekers and to cooperate with each other to that end.

Finally, EU leaders discussed the reform of EU asylum rules. Much progress has been achieved: five out of the seven legislative proposals are close to finalisation. EU leaders invited the Austrian presidency to continue work on the Dublin regulation and the asylum procedures proposal.

Security and defence

EU leaders said that Europe must take greater responsibility for its own security. They agreed to take concrete steps to strengthen European defence by enhancing defence investment, capability development, and operational readiness. They had an exchange of views with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on EU-NATO cooperation.

Regarding the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), EU leaders called for the  fulfilment of existing commitments and for further developing the initial projects. A next set of projects will be agreed in November 2018.

EU leaders also welcomed progress on military mobility in the framework of PESCO and EU-NATO cooperation. The European Council called on member states to simplify and standardise relevant rules and procedures by 2024.

EU leaders called for the swift implementation of the European defence industrial development programme, as well as for further progress on the European Defence Fund.

EU leaders called for an agreement on a civilian CSDP compact by the end of 2018. This would provide a new EU framework for civilian crisis management and CSDP missions.

They also called for the rapid adoption of a new EU regime of restrictive measures to address the use and proliferation of chemical weapons.

EU leaders discussed disinformation. They invited the High Representative and the Commission to present an action plan with specific proposals for a coordinated EU response by December 2018.

EU-NATO cooperation was also on the summit’s agenda. EU leaders said that the cooperation should be further deepened through a new joint declaration.

Jobs, growth and competitiveness

Trade

In a context of growing trade tensions, the European Council stresses the need to preserve and deepen the rules-based multilateral system.

The European Council invites the European Commission to propose a multi-stakeholder approach which would improve the functioning of the World Trade Organisation. More flexible negotiations and the reduction of trade costs should be part of this plan.

The European Council also calls for the legislative proposal on the screening of foreign direct investments to be adopted swiftly. This would further bolster the EU’s trade agenda focused on ambitious, balanced and mutually beneficial trade agreements with global partners.

Taxation

EU leaders stressed that the fight against tax avoidance, evasion and fraud must be vigorously pursued both at global and EU level. They also emphasized the need to adapt taxation to digitalisation, both globally and within the EU. Leaders encouraged the Council to take work forward on the Commission proposals on digital taxation.

European Semester

The European Council endorsed the integrated country-specific recommendations as discussed by the Council, thus allowing the conclusion of the 2018 European Semester. The current good economic situation should be used for strengthening the reform momentum.

Innovation and digital

Research

The European Council stated that Europe’s high-quality research should be developed to create new products, services and business models across the EU. Access to financing and cooperation between research, innovation and education are essential.

The European Council invited the European Commission to launch a new pilot initiative on breakthrough innovation within the remaining period of Horizon 2020. It also confirmed the setup of an European Innovation Council under the next EU long-term budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework.

Digital single market

The European Council asked for the delivery of the remaining legislative proposals which concern the Digital single market before the end of the current legislative cycle. These are essential in order to build a European data economy and develop artificial intelligence. On the latter, the European Council invited the European Commission to work with EU member states on a coordinated plan.

MFF

The European Council invited the European Parliament and the Council to examine the European Commission’s proposals on the next EU long-term budget, the Multiannual financial framework. This review should be comprehensive and should take place as soon as possible, the European Council recommended.

Agreement on name issue

The European Council welcomed and supported the agreement reached between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece on the name issue. This, together with the agreement between Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness, and Cooperation, sets a strong example for others in the region to strengthen good neighbourly relations.

EU enlargement

The European Council endorsed the conclusions on enlargement and stabilisation and association process adopted by the Council on 26 June 2018.

External relations

The European Council adopted conclusions on the downing of flight MH17, calling on the Russian Federation to accept responsibility and fully cooperate will all efforts to establish the truth, justice and accountability.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron updated the other leaders on the Normandy talks and Minsk agreements implementation. Finally, President Tusk debriefed from the G7 meeting in Canada, in particular on trade and EU-US relations.

Institutional affairs

The European Council also adopted the decision on the composition of the European Parliament. This decision enables member states to enact the necessary domestic measures for organising the elections to the European Parliament for the 2019-2024 parliamentary term.

Agenda highlights, 29 June 2018

Brexit

The European Council (Art. 50), in an EU 27 format, will review the state of play of Brexit negotiations and adopt conclusions on progress made.

Euro summit

Finally, the Euro summit will in an inclusive format (EU27) discuss the reform of the economic and monetary union. They are also likely to welcome the successful completion of Greece’ third (and final) adjustment programme.

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