European Council, 17-18/12/2015

European Council
  • European Council
  • 17-18/12/2015
  • Brussels
  • Chaired by Donald Tusk
  • Photo directory

European leaders met in Brussels on December 17 and 18 to discuss the migration crisis, the fight against terrorism, and Britain's reform demands.

The meeting was also the occasion for Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, to hand over the presidency to Mark Rutte, Dutch Prime Minister. The Netherlands will chair the presidency of the Council for the next 6 months, from January 2016 onward.


In order to tackle the unprecedented flows of refugees in 2015, the EU has set out a comprehensive strategy and is fully engaged in solving the most pressing issues. 

According to a report by the Luxembourg Presidency, implementation has been advancing rapidly in some areas, but significant gaps still remain.

On 17 December, the European Council took stock of the implementation of the decisions already taken and agreed to speed up actions on:

  • the operation of hotspots
  • the implementation of the relocation decisions and returns 
  • the control of the EU's external borders
  • cooperation with countries of origin and transit

migration crisis interactive map
Click on the image to access the interactive map (available in English and French only)

EU leaders also asked the Council to rapidly examine the European Commission's proposal of strengthening the EU's external borders released on 15 December. In particular, the Council needs to a adopt a position on the European Border and Coast Guard under the incoming Dutch presidency.

The timeline outlines the main measures taken by the EU, together with the member states, over the last few months, to address the challenges created by migration.

See also the relevant policy page on our website:

Referendum in the UK

In November Prime Minister Cameron set out the four areas where he is seeking reforms to address the concerns of the British people over UK membership of the European Union.

The European Council debated the UK plans for the referendum and agreed to find solutions in all the four areas at their February meeting.

Fight against terrorism

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, the EU must step up even more its action against terrorism. The European Council discussed further actions in terms of:

  • exchange of information and terrorism financing
  • control at the external borders
  • conditions leading to terrorism, the prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism
  • counter terrorism cooperation with third countries

Leaders welcomed the agreement on a directive on the use of passenger name record (PNR) and called for its rapid implementation.

Economic and Monetary Union

EU leaders discussed economic issues. They focused on the main points of the Five President's report on the Economic and Monetary Union, released last June.

Internal market

Further to the Commission communication "Upgrading the single market: more opportunities for people and business", the European Council called for the completion of the European single market in all its dimensions and accelerate the implementation of the the digital single market and the capital markets union.

It also stressed the importance to reach a successful deal on TTIP negotiations.

Energy union with a forward-looking climate policy

EU leaders welcomed the historic climate deal that was agreed at the COP21 in Paris, and called to accelerate work on an energy union with a forward-looking climate policy.

They stressed the importance of the diversification of suppliers, sources and routes, which is one of the objectives of the Energy Union.

External relations

The European Council finished by adopting conclusions on Syria, Libya, and refugee funding.


In his invitation letter, President Donald Tusk set out the main items the European Council expected to address during the meeting.

Last reviewed on 28/06/2016