This is the 80th European Council in which I have participated as Prime Minister or European Council President. But never before have I had such a strong belief that things are going in a better direction.
Our optimism should still be extremely cautious, but we have good reasons to talk about it. Among them are: economic growth in each and every country of the EU, falling unemployment with the highest number of employed people ever recorded, the financial agreement with Greece, the surge of pro-European sentiment in recent weeks according to the polls, the election defeats of anti-European parties, and victories of political leaders who stand 100% for the EU. From Bulgaria and Austria to the Netherlands, and – of course – France.
We have also managed to maintain political unity of the EU in the face of multiple threats and challenges. My talks today with President Poroshenko are another proof of what I have heard from all my interlocutors in the recent weeks. From President Trump to Prime Minister Abe, from Prime Minister Li to Senegal’s President Macky Sall, from President Morales to the new President of South Korea – they have all highlighted that for them – despite Brexit – the EU remains the most important partner. And that despite gloomy predictions, it is Europe that is again becoming a stable and positive point of reference for the whole world.
However, we cannot be complacent or naïve. We have to prove to the people that we are capable of restoring control over events which overwhelm and sometimes even terrify us. Last year we agreed that the EU will protect our people against security threats, especially terrorism, illegal migration and uncontrolled globalisation, and we must continue to deliver. Therefore, during the upcoming European Council, I will propose we move further on our policy response in these three areas.
And finally. As we know, the Brexit negotiations started 3 days ago. It is a most difficult process, for which the EU is well prepared. We can hear different predictions, coming from different people, about the possible outcome of these negotiations: hard Brexit, soft Brexit or no deal. Some of my British friends have even asked me whether Brexit could be reversed, and whether I could imagine an outcome where the UK stays part of the EU. I told them that in fact the European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve. So, who knows? You may say I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one.