European Council, 18-19/02/2016

European Council
  • European Council
  • 18-19/02/2016
  • Brussels
  • Chaired by Donald Tusk
  • Photo directory

Discussions at the European Council were dominated by the deal with the UK and the ongoing migration and refugee crisis. They also discussed the situation in Syria and Libya.

The European Council began with a statement condemning the terrorist attacks in Ankara. EU leaders extend their deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims and express their solidarity with the people of Turkey.

"I deeply believe that the UK needs Europe, and Europe needs the UK. To break the link now would be totally against our mutual interests. We have done all we could not to let that happen."

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

Britain in the European Union

Following intense negotiations, EU leaders achieved a deal which strengthens Britain's special status in the EU. It is a legally binding and irreversible decision by all 28 leaders. The settlement addresses all of Prime Minister Cameron's concerns without compromising EU fundamental values.

At the December 2015 European Council, the European Council agreed to find mutually satisfactory solutions in four areas of concern at its February meeting:

  • competitiveness
  • economic governance
  • sovereignty
  • social benefits and free movement

On 2 February 2016, President Donald Tusk put forward a proposal for a new settlement addressing all these concerns. The proposal served as the basis for negotiations during the meeting.

The following timeline gives an overview of key events in the negotiation process.


EU leaders adopted conclusions on the migration and refugee crisis. The debate focused on the latest developments since leaders last met in December but also on the necessity to build a European consensus on migration.

They also confirmed their intention to organise a special meeting with Turkey in the beginning of March.

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

Discussions focused on:

  • progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Action Plan but also the need to see a substantial and sustainable reduction of the number of illegal entries from Turkey
  • humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, including in the Western Balkans countries
  • external border management
  • the need to gradually get back to a situation where all Members of the Schengen area fully apply the Schengen Borders Code
  • the requirement for hotspots to be fully functional
  • the implementation of decisions on relocation, returns and readmission

The timeline outlines the main measures taken by the EU, together with the member states, over the last few months.

See also the relevant policy page on our website:

Last reviewed on 19/05/2016