share with you some remarks before our European Council meeting this Thursday
October European Council schedule
After our traditional exchange of views with European Parliament President
Tajani at 15.00, Prime Minister Ratas will update us on where we stand in terms
of implementing our previous conclusions. We will then have a political
discussion on the external aspects of migration, with a specific focus on the
financial needs necessary to stem the flow of illegal migrants from Africa.
Next, we will adopt conclusions on the vision for Digital Europe, with the
objective of turning the fruitful discussions at our recent Tallinn summit into
operational follow-up. Our conclusions on security and defence should ensure
that the momentum from last June is maintained, in particular as regards the
efforts to launch the Permanent Structured Cooperation by the end of the year.
Over dinner, we will look into the deeply worrying developments in DPRK, the
situation as regards Iran as well as Turkey. Furthermore, President Macron will
make a point about trade negotiations, and Prime Minister May will share her
reflections about the current state of the Brexit talks.
morning we will have an informal breakfast about the Leaders’ Agenda. After
that, the European Council will reconvene at 27 to discuss the way ahead in the
negotiations on the withdrawal of the UK. Prime Minister Ratas will take this
opportunity to inform us on the discussions in the Council on the relocation of
the UK-based agencies. Our meeting should end around lunchtime.
At our meeting in Tallinn we agreed
to develop a Leaders’ Agenda for the coming two years. I have discussed it with
all of you, and would like to set out how I propose to proceed.
my consultations, it is clear that, while delivering on what we agreed in
Bratislava and Rome, there is also a willingness to reinvigorate and enrich our
work, including by drawing on new ideas. In doing so, I would like us to be
guided by three principles.
Firstly, we should focus on practical
solutions to EU citizens’ real problems. This means changes – not just for the
sake of change, but in order to bring back a sense of stability, security and
predictability in people’s lives as well as faith in the future. Institutional
innovation can in some cases be a means to an end, but we should be careful not
to get bogged down in unnecessary institutional or theoretical debates.
Secondly, we should proceed step by step. Some matters are ripe for decisions
now, and should therefore be dealt with straightaway, with speed, ambition and
determination, so as to ensure real progress. Other matters will need to be
further prepared, before we can debate them.
Thirdly, we should preserve
the unity that we have managed to develop over the past year. We need this
unity in order to solve the migration crisis, to tackle unfair aspects of
globalisation, to deal with aggressive third countries, to limit the damage
caused by Brexit as well as to preserve the rules-based international order in
these difficult times. We can only confront today’s uncertainties if we act in
unison, since individual countries are too small to cope with them on their
own. Some might say that I am obsessed with unity, but I am deeply convinced –
not only because of my job, but above all due to my personal experience – that
European unity is our greatest strength.
Obviously there is the dilemma
of how to reconcile unity with dynamism, and how to use the new energy in a way
that does not divide, but strengthens us. After the consultations, I feel
reassured that we are capable of accelerating our work, without disrupting our
unity. Therefore, the overall framework for our decisions should continue to be
in meetings with 27 or 28 Member States, depending on the subject. As we set
out in the Rome Declaration, this approach does not prevent Member States
moving forward more rapidly in specific areas, in accordance with the Treaties,
while keeping the door open for those who want to join later. To be clear,
unity cannot become an excuse for stagnation, but at the same time ambition
cannot lead to divisions.
When it comes
to working methods, I have three suggestions to make.
First of all, I am
very happy with your willingness to accelerate our work and overcome the sense
of powerlessness, where political interests, or bureaucratic inertia, stand in
the way of achieving results. For this to succeed, I will propose a more
political approach during our discussions, and – whenever necessary – more
meetings. Engaging more directly on politically sensitive issues, and ensuring
real progress, will require that you are ready to overcome deadlocks in the
Council of Ministers. We have previously demonstrated our capacity to do so,
for example with regard to more robust anti-dumping rules that have now also
been agreed with the European Parliament. With this in mind I will propose a
number of debates to cut the Gordian knot on the most sensitive issues such as
migration or EMU reform.
As you know, there are two main reasons why
some issues are stuck. The first is that instead of dealing with the issues at
stake, leaders allow them to get lost somewhere between their collaborators or
in the decision-making system. I am really pleased that you agreed in Tallinn
that it is high time to take things into our own hands. The second reason is
conflicts of interests and opinions among you and among your governments, both
when it comes to substance and the determination to break the impasse. In order
to move forward and agree on quick solutions we need a new method, which does
not involve long drafting sessions on our conclusions. That is why I would like
to propose a method that focuses on solving real issues. It will involve a
number of discussions, as indicated in the Leaders’ Agenda, that will be
organised on the basis of Decision Notes which I will put forward
before these discussions, starting with our meeting in Gothenburg. These
Decision Notes will report on our differences, precisely describing
the scope of conflict and thus allowing us to hold a serious, political
discussion. The aim will be to break any deadlock. If the first discussion does
not succeed, we will need to decide whether to make another attempt at solving
the issue, or if the only way forward is enhanced cooperation among the willing
countries, as provided for by the Treaties.
Secondly, many of you insist
on a rigorous follow-up of our meetings to ensure that decisions are properly
implemented. In Bratislava we agreed to intensify our focus on implementation
by deciding that the Head of State or Government representing the Presidency
would report on progress at every ordinary meeting of the European Council. I
suggest to develop this practice by ensuring that the reports are clearer and
provide a better basis for us to draw political conclusions for our work. With
this in mind, I enclose an overview of the implementation of the Bratislava
Agenda. As we are currently halfway through the delivery on our ambitions from
Bratislava, I have designed the Leaders’ Agenda in such a way that, without
overlapping with our previous agenda, it complements what we have already
decided to do together.
Finally, several of you have rightly highlighted
the need to ensure that decisions among us are firmly anchored in your
respective national political settings. Each of you are used to getting
involved with your national parliaments and reaching out to the public at
large, in accordance with your specific constitutional traditions and political
circumstances. We will not change that. However, we could also draw inspiration
from new ideas on how to debate Europe, such as those expressed recently.
With a view to achieving our common objectives, I suggest that we organise
our work in accordance with the Leaders’ Agenda, attached herewith. This is of
course a living document that will have to be updated and enriched as we go
along. I would very much welcome your comments and suggestions at our upcoming
discussion on Friday morning. I do not, however, foresee a drafting session on
the Leaders’ Agenda, but rather a political exchange on how to best prepare our
works in the months ahead. Depending on the outcome of our discussion I will
ensure that it is revised in accordance with our common understanding of the
I look forward to seeing you all in Brussels.