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Speech by the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, at the European Council meeting on 14 and 15 December 2017

(check against delivery)


  1. Brexit

I should like to congratulate the negotiator, Michel Barnier, on the excellent work he has done and express Parliament’s satisfaction at the unity we have shown.

In the resolution we adopted yesterday, Parliament noted the fact that sufficient progress has been made for the negotiations to move on to the second phase. Now we need to be vigilant for the next steps.

In the light of the statements made on the other side of the Channel last weekend, we want to underline that the joint report is a binding document, not an exercise in sleight of hand to enable us to move on to the second phase. There can be no discussions on future relations if the exit agreement is not applied to the letter.

The fact that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made does not mean that we have resolved all the problems. We still have a lot of work to do. Parliament will pay particularly close attention to the measures proposed to genuinely safeguard the rights of citizens and to the procedure which will be introduced to guarantee their special status.

I am also delighted that the British Government has agreed to honour its financial commitments. I never doubted that it would. As regards the issue of the Irish border, Ireland’s problems are the Union’s problems.

The United Kingdom must shed all ambiguity: the specific solution agreed for this border must not become a back door into the internal market.

As regards future relations with the United Kingdom, there are red lines which are non-negotiable: integrity of the internal market, decision-making autonomy of the Union, and third-country status, with all that that implies. In this difficult second phase as well, unity will be our shield.

We will play our part in drafting the agreement on future relations which Parliament will ultimately have to approve.

We face a series of challenges on matters which our citizens regard as priorities.

  1. Security and defence

According to the findings of the Eurobarometer survey, EU citizens want a Union which takes more effective action in the areas of security and defence. We cannot continue to rely on the military might of others. Our security, monitoring our borders, managing migration, fighting terrorism and the stability of regions immediately beyond our borders are our responsibility.  

In signing the Rome Declaration, we made a commitment to revitalise the Union, starting from a common defence. The first step is to develop a European industry and a European market which generate economies of scale and facilitate interoperability.

Twenty-five Member States have just taken an historic step forward by introducing arrangements for permanent military cooperation. The objectives include developing European defence instruments and conducting joint security operations. The EU defence fund, which is currently being discussed in Parliament and which would be used to support the security and defence industry, points in the same direction.

Our industry will benefit from spin-offs generated by research projects and the development of prototypes. The more effective use of funds at EU level will be matched by savings at national level. Common procurement procedures and common standards will enhance our ability to launch joint security operations.

We should follow the example of our space policy where European systems, such as EGNOS, Galileo and Copernicus, have helped to make us more competitive. Drawing on that example, the next budget must set aside the funds needed for proper investment in security and defence.

  1. Social, educational and cultural dimension

Globalisation and new technologies are serious concerns for our citizens, who want a Union which ensures that no one is left behind.

Digitalisation, robotics and artificial intelligence are transforming manufacturing and skills. The new jobs being created are not enough to offset those which have been lost to machines and technologies. Around half of all human activities could be replaced by automated processes.

The Union must steer this ongoing revolution, by investing in training. More effective coordination between universities, training centres and industry is essential if workers’ skills are to develop in line with changing needs.

The new EU budget should make additional resources available, not only for the Erasmus programme for students, but also for apprenticeships and traineeships for persons seeking to re-enter the labour market.

It is firms which create jobs, and for that reason any rational employment policy must be based on support for the real economy. 

Our entrepreneurs must be able to invest in Europe without facing unfair competition from businesses which deal with overcapacity problems by laying off European workers, while taking advantage of subsidies and selling their products below cost price. Parliament insisted that the new method for calculating anti-dumping duties should not impose any additional burden of proof on SMEs and take account of social and environmental dumping.

Parliament’s proposal on the Posted Workers Directive combines provisions to protect workers, enhance competitiveness and create a fairer market. I hope that an agreement can be reached with the Council as soon as possible.

If we want to create jobs, we must also focus on sectors of high labour intensity and creativity. Our history and culture, which go back thousands of years, offer potential for growth which we must exploit to the full.

I am thinking of tourism, design, the digitalisation of cultural sites, luxury goods and high-end craft products. We are not only the continent with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites; we are also still the leader in many branches of the cultural and creative industries.

In its resolution on A coherent EU policy for the cultural and creative industries, Parliament calls for measures to promote a sector which employs 12 million people.

In this sector as well, the digital revolution is opening up unprecedented prospects, provided that we come up with the right policies to govern it. Digital platforms must not be above the law. Like other firms, they must be accountable, pay taxes, guarantee transparency and safeguard social rights, minors, security, consumers and intellectual property.

The market for pirated and counterfeit goods is continuing to grow, thanks in no small part to the web. If we fail to safeguard creativity and the work done by product and fashion designers and creators of songs, films, articles and books, investment will dwindle, with serious consequences for Europe’s competitiveness.

Even more than our economy, culture is the glue which holds Europe together. Awareness of our own identity is the foundation for a strong and open Europe which sees diversity as an asset.

The European Year of Cultural Heritage, of which the European Parliament has been a strong advocate, offers an opportunity to rediscover and promote that identity and bring the Union closer to its peoples.

  1. Immigration

Our citizens are looking to us to resolve the migration crisis. They no longer accept the uncontrolled flows of migrants, pilgrimages of refugees hopping from country to country in search of asylum, mass deaths in the desert or at sea, or the appalling spectacle of markets where people are sold as slaves.

Piecemeal responses are the opposite of effective solutions. What we need instead is a strong European strategy, genuine coordination and more pooling of resources.

On the one hand, we need to step up checks at our external borders, turning back those who have no right to enter, or arranging quickly and firmly for their readmission; on the other, we need to show solidarity with those fleeing wars and persecution.

The current asylum system, which leaves countries of first entry to bear the full brunt of dealing with migrants, is not working. Parliament has approved by a wide majority an overhaul of the Dublin system, to introduce rules which increase the element of solidarity and make the system more uniform and effective. We want the system for the allocation of refugees to be automatic and to be based on fair and objective criteria, in keeping with the spirit of solidarity on which our Union has been founded from the start.

Now it is up to the Council to do its part, as quickly as possible. Although efforts to achieve a broad consensus on such a sensitive topic are laudable, it is not right to insist on unanimity at all costs in cases where the Treaties provide for decision-making by a qualified majority under the ordinary legislative procedure. The danger is not only that a decision of fundamental importance to EU citizens will be put off indefinitely, but also that Parliament will be deprived of its powers as co-legislator. As President of the European Parliament, it is my duty to safeguard its prerogatives.

At the Abidjan summit, the urgent need for us all to work together to stabilise Libya and protect human rights emerged very clearly. The African Union is calling on us to speak with one voice and coordinate our efforts.

Shutting down the central Mediterranean corridors will require investments similar in scale to those used to halt migration via the Balkan route. This money must be spent in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Niger, Chad or Mali. It must be used to train border guards and members of the security forces, or to set up reception centres under the auspices of the UN, where humanitarian protection can be provided and asylum applications dealt with.

The problem of migration, which is linked to demographics, climate, terrorism, wars and poverty, must be tackled at its root. We must offer young Africans real prospects, otherwise they will leave not in their thousands, but in their millions.

The EUR 3.4 billion investment plan for Africa, which we approved in July, is an important step in the right direction. But much greater efforts are needed if Africa is to develop a manufacturing base, farm efficiently, exploit renewable sources of energy and build up proper infrastructure.

In Abidjan I proposed that as from the next budget at least EUR 40 billion should be set aside for the investment fund. The leverage effect and synergies generated with the funding provided by the European Investment Bank could make it possible to mobilise some EUR 500 billion, thereby doubling foreign investment in Africa.

  1. Strengthening economic governance

We need to complete the Banking Union and the capital market. Reducing risks must imply pooling them.

Parliament is in favour of transforming the European Stability Mechanism into a European Monetary Fund. We also support the idea of appointing an EU Finance Minister; he or she would also be a Vice-President of the Commission and chair the Eurogroup, and would have the confidence of the European Parliament after going through a hearing and approval procedure.

These reforms must go beyond mere window-dressing; what are needed are real powers, a large enough budget and democratic scrutiny.

  1. A political budget

As I emphasised at the last European Council meeting, I agree with Commissioner Stylianides on the need to develop genuine European civil protection.  We could endow ourselves with the joint capabilities and resources needed to respond promptly and more effectively to requests for assistance from Member States and neighbouring countries. In so doing, we could show our citizens the more practical face of European solidarity.

This is another example of how pooling resources in certain sectors generates efficiency gains and savings for all the Member States.

Similarly, we need to pool more resources in the areas of defence, training, culture and immigration. The Union needs a political budget which reflects citizens’ priorities. This reform should be at the top of our list, and it does not even require an amendment to the Treaties.

We must not increase the burden on citizens and SMEs – they already pay too much tax. We need to generate Community own resources by collecting revenue from those who avoid taxes at the moment.

On the basis of the Monti report, Parliament is considering a series of possibilities. These include taxes on digital platforms, which would do away with the problem of tax dumping and the territoriality of profits, and on speculative financial transactions.

I also regard bolder action against tax havens as essential.

Stepping up support for security and sustainable development in partner countries

The addition of CBSD, as a new type of assistance, to the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) will allow the EU to support partner countries more effectively in building their capacity to prevent and manage crises on their own.

High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “Investing in the security of our partner countries, at their request, is in the EU’s and our partners’ interests. The EU is not only a political actor and an economic partner, but also a critical security provider, notably in Africa. We have already trained more than 30.000 policemen and women, soldiers, judges: with this new measure, we’ll now be able to complete our support by providing them the necessary tools to perform their duty. This will help empower our partner countries to tackle their own security, governance and stability, essential prerequisite for a sustainable development.”

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica added: “There can be no real development without ensuring stability and people’s security. In order to achieve sustainable development, the EU will assist partner countries in providing effective and accountable security services to their citizens, which are consistent with democratic norms, good governance, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.”

The amendment to the IcSP will allow for assisting military actors to perform development and human security-related tasks, under exceptional and clearly defined circumstances: where non-military actors cannot perform them, where there is a threat to the existence of functioning State institutions or the protection of human rights, and where a consensus exists between the partner country concerned and the EU that military actors are key for preserving, establishing or re-establishing the conditions essential for sustainable development, including in crises and fragile or destabilised contexts and situations.

Areas of possible support to partner countries foreseen under CBSD include:

  • training, such as in the areas of human rights, good governance or human resource management;
  • advice and technical cooperation;
  • provision of equipment and infrastructure improvements, such as IT-systems, protective gear, health- or training-related facilities.

Concretely, this could entail for example the support to mine clearing, civil protection tasks in emergencies, or reconstruction or rehabilitation of civil infrastructure.

Through supporting concrete good governance measures, the CBSD assistance will also contribute to enhancing efficiency, civilian oversight and democratic control of the military.

The funding cannot be used for, weapons, ammunition or any kind of lethal equipment. There are clear safe-guards in place to ensure that the support will help to achieve development objectives only.

First support measures under the CBSD amendment are expected to materialise in early 2018.


In some cases, lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity will not be possible without the contribution of the military, which is an integral part of the security and institutional setup of states. The addition of CBSD assistance to the IcSP will allow supporting military actors, in exceptional circumstances, and only in cases when the military performs a development objective, in our partner countries. To this end, €100 million will be added to the IcSP financial envelope for the period of 2018-2020.

The amendment to the IcSP follows up to the Commission’s commitments under the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, which recognises the link between security and development and underlining the importance of just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

For More Information

Council Press Release, 07/12/2017 – Contributing to global stability and peace: Council adopts improvements to the EU’s assistance instrument

MEMO – Questions and Answers: Measures in support of security and development in partner countries

Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace

Motion for a resolution on the situation of the Rohingya people – B8-2017-0670

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Myanmar, in particular its resolution of 14 September 2017 on Myanmar, in particular the situation of Rohingyas(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 June 2017 on statelessness in South and South East Asia(2),

–  having regard to the joint communication of 1 June 2016 by the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the European Parliament and the Council entitled ‘Elements for an EU strategy vis-à-vis Myanmar/Burma: A Special Partnership for Democracy, Peace and Prosperity’ (JOIN(2016)0024),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on the EU strategy with Myanmar/Burma of 20 June 2016, and to the Council conclusions on Myanmar/Burma of 16 October 2017,

–  having regard to the statement of 6 September 2017 by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on the situation in Rakhine State, to the statement of 11 September 2017 by the VP/HR on the latest developments in Rakhine State, Myanmar and the border region in Bangladesh, to the Declaration of 20 November 2017 by the VP/HR on behalf of the European Union on Myanmar/Burma and to the statement of 23 November 2017 by the VP/HR on the signing of a bilateral repatriation agreement between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh,

–  having regard to the Security Council Presidential Statement of 6 November 2017,

–  having regard to the final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State of August 2017,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas on 27 November 2017, according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), a total of 624 000 Rohingya refugees had reportedly arrived in Bangladesh since 25 August 2017; whereas according to UNICEF at least 58 % of them are children;

B.  whereas on 27 November 2017, according to the Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), an estimated 441 300 people were residing in the Kutupalong-Balukhali agglomeration, 46 000 people were hosted in local communities, and the remainder were living in other sites in Cox’s Bazar; whereas the Kutupalong-Balukhali agglomeration is highly congested; whereas the ISCG has identified that because of overcrowding in Cox’s Bazar, health and nutrition are the most immediate and acute needs to be addressed;

C.  whereas the Rohingya represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine State; whereas the approximately one million Rohingya are one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, and have been officially stateless since the 1982 Burmese Citizenship Law;

D.  whereas the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army staged a major attack on police posts and an army base in Rakhine State on 25 August 2017; whereas this resulted in a military counteroffensive;

E.  whereas the humanitarian and human rights situation in Rakhine State is extremely serious; whereas three UN human rights experts concluded their first fact-finding mission in Bangladesh on 27 October 2017 and were ‘deeply disturbed’ by accounts of killings, torture, rape, arson and aerial attacks reportedly perpetrated against the Rohingya community in Myanmar;

F.  whereas, according to ECHO, access for humanitarian organisations remains highly restricted in Northern Rakhine; whereas some partial improvements in access to Northern Rakhine have been observed; whereas in Central Rakhine, small improvements have also been noted but access to this area continues to be limited as well; whereas the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, visited Northern Rakhine State in May 2017 and called for greater access for aid organisations working in the area; whereas the Commissioner visited several EU-funded humanitarian projects;

G.  whereas on 23 October 2017, the EU co-hosted the Pledging Conference on the Rohingya Refugee Crisis; whereas the EU and its Member States offered more than 50 % of the USD 344 million pledged; whereas with a pledge of EUR 30 million from the EU budget on 23 October 2017, the total Commission support to the Rohingya and their host communities in Bangladesh and Myanmar amounts to EUR 51 million for 2017;

H.  whereas on 23 November 2017 a bilateral repatriation agreement was signed between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh; whereas the VP/HR has welcomed the signing of the repatriation agreement as an important and welcomed step towards addressing one of the worst humanitarian and human rights crises of our times;

I.  whereas during the Apostolic Trip of the Holy Father Francis to Myanmar and Bangladesh (26 November – 2 December 2017), the Holy Father addressed the following words to a group of Rohingya refugees at the end of the Interreligious and Ecumenical Meeting on 1 December 2017 in Dhaka: ‘Let us continue to do good to them; let us continue to act so that their rights may be recognised. Let us not close our hearts, let us not look the other way. The presence of God today is also called “Rohingya”. May each one of us give his own response’;

1.  Strongly condemns the widespread violence in Rakhine State, which has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the vast majority belonging to the Rohingya community;

2.  Expresses grave concern over the humanitarian and human rights situation in Rakhine State; is alarmed by reports on the systematic use of force and intimidation, killing of men, women, and children, sexual violence, and the destruction and burning of homes and property; is particularly concerned about the situation of children, in desperate need of shelter, food and water, and of girls at risk of trafficking for sexual exploitation;

3.  Supports the EU’s call on all sides to bring an immediate end to all violence; welcomes the fact that the EU is urging the Myanmar military to end its operations, to ensure the protection of all civilians without discrimination and to fully observe international human rights law; welcomes the EU’s call on the Government of Myanmar to take all measures to defuse tensions between communities;

4.  Commends the efforts undertaken by the Government of Bangladesh and host communities to provide safety, shelter and humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya refugees;

5.  Calls on the Government of Myanmar to grant immediate, full, safe and unhindered access to UN agencies and their partners, as well as other domestic and international non-governmental organisations, to provide humanitarian assistance in Rakhine State, in particular for children;

6.  Stresses that the allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence and abuse and violence against children, must be thoroughly investigated and all those responsible for such acts held to account; urges the Government of Myanmar to cooperate fully with the Human Rights Council’s independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar and to allow it full, safe and unhindered access to the country without delay;

7.  Calls on the Government of Myanmar to grant domestic and international media organisations full and unhindered access to Rakhine State and to ensure the safety and security of media personnel;

8.  Welcomes the signing of a bilateral repatriation agreement between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh; calls for the implementation of the agreement in full compliance with international law; calls on the Government of Myanmar to create the conditions on the ground that will allow for a voluntary, safe and dignified return of the refugees to their places of origin;

9.  Calls on the Government of Myanmar to address the root causes of the crisis in Rakhine State by respecting, promoting and protecting human rights, without discrimination and regardless of ethnicity or religion, including by allowing freedom of movement, equal access to basic services and equal access to full citizenship for all individuals;

10.  Welcomes the final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which puts forward recommendations to surmount the political, socio-economic and humanitarian challenges that Rakhine State is currently facing; welcomes the Government of Myanmar’s public commitment to implement the recommendations, as well as the establishment of a ministerial-level committee to implement the recommendations; calls for the swift and full implementation of these recommendations;

11.  Welcomes the EU humanitarian aid to the Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh; welcomes the fact that the EU has stepped up its humanitarian assistance for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and that it stands ready to extend its activities in Rakhine State in favour of all people in need once access is granted;

12.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Government and Parliament of Bangladesh and the Government and Parliament of Myanmar.

Draft opinion – 2016 discharge: EU general budget – Commission – PE 612.390v01-00 – Committee on Development

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Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos will be in Bern, Switzerland on 12 and 13 November to participate in the third Ministerial Conference on the Central Mediterranean Migration Route, hosted by the Swiss Confederation this time. Discussions will focus on the comprehensive cooperation along the route. Commissioner Avramopoulos will be joined by the President of the Swiss Confederation Doris Leuthard and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga as well as the Estonian Minister of the Interior Andres Anvelt, representing the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, together with the responsible ministers from Austria, France, Italy, Malta and Slovenia, the state secretary for the interior from Germany, and ministers from Chad, Tunisia, Mali, Niger and the Interior ministry secretary general of Algeria. The Director General of the International Organization for Migration William Lacy Swing and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi will also be present, together with Director General Yves D’Accord from the International Red Cross. A press conference is scheduled for 13:00 CET and can be followed on EbS(For more information: Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Thomas Kramer – Tel.: +32 229 58602)


Commissaire King lundi à Paris pour commémorer des attentats terroristes du 13 novembre 2015

Le Commissaire européen chargé de l’Union de la sécurité Julian King sera à Paris lundi où il participera à la cérémonie de commémoration des attentats terroristes du 13 novembre 2015 au Bataclan. A l’occasion de cette visite, il y rencontrera la Garde des Sceaux, Ministre de la Justice, Madame Nicole Belloubet et le Directeur de cabinet du Président de la République, Monsieur Patrick Strzoda, pour discuter, entre autres, des questions relatives aux défis actuels de la sécurité. Le Commissaire King visitera l’Agence Nationale de la Sécurité des Systèmes d’Information (ANSSI), où il rencontrera le Directeur général, Monsieur Guillaume Poupard. Dans l’après-midi, le Commissaire rencontrera le Coordinateur de la Coordination Nationale du Renseignement et de lutte contre le terrorisme (CNR), Monsieur Pierre Bousquet de Florian, ainsi que le secrétaire d’Etat au numérique, Monsieur Mounir Mahjoubi. (Pour plus d’informations: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Katarzyna Kolanko – Tel.: +32 229 63444)


The Commissioners’ weekly activities

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)