European Council, 17-18/03/2016

European Council
  • European Council
  • 17-18/03/2016
  • Brussels
  • Chaired by Donald Tusk
  • Photo directory

Main results

At their meeting on 17- 18  March, EU leaders discussed further steps to address the migration crisis and EU-Turkey cooperation. They also held a debate the economic situation and on climate and energy.

On 18 March, EU leaders met with their Turkish counterpart, Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmed Davutoğlu. They reached an agreement aimed at stopping the flow of irregular migration via Turkey to Europe, breaking the business model of smugglers and offering migrants an alternative to putting their lives at risk. 

Meeting of EU leaders with Turkey

To achieve their goals, EU and Turkish leaders agreed on a series of actions points:

"We needed to ensure that each and every migrant arriving in Europe will be treated individually. In other words, that our agreement complies with all EU and international laws."

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

  • returning to Turkey all irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as from 20 March 2016, in full accordance with EU and international law
  • for every Syrian returned to Turkey, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU, on the basis of existing commitments
  • Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for illegal migration
  • once irregular crossings are ending, a voluntary humanitarian admission scheme will be activated
  • the EU will further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated 3 billion euros and will mobilise an additional 3 billion euro once these resources are used and provided commitments have been met
  • the EU and Turkey will work to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria

EU leaders and Turkey also agreed to accelerate the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap, with a view to lifting visa requirements for Turkish citizens by end of June 2016 at the latest, if all benchmarks have been met. They reconfirmed their commitment to re-energise the accession process as set out in the joint statement of 29 November 2015. They agreed, as a next step, to open chapter 33 during the Netherlands presidency.

European Council meeting


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

The European Council further discussed and confirmed its comprehensive strategy to tackle the migration crisis. They called for:

  • more work to be done on hotspots
  • support the capacity of Greece for the return of irregular migrants to Turkey
  • emergency humanitarian support to be provided to help Greece
  • accelerated relocation from Greece
  • the quick adoption of the European Border and Coast Guard proposal
  • work on the future architecture of the EU's migration policy, including the Dublin regulation

EU leaders reaffirmed their support to Jordan and Lebanon and called for strengthened cooperation with the Western Balkans counties.

Jobs, growth and competitiveness / climate and energy

The European Council discussed the economic situation. In the context of the 2016 European Semester, the EU leaders endorsed the policy priority areas of the Annual Growth Survey:

  • re-launching investment
  • implementing structural reforms to modernise the economies
  • conducting responsible fiscal policies

EU leaders also discussed the difficult situation in the steel sector and in agriculture, notably in the dairy and pig meat sectors. They welcomed the intention of the Commission to publish a communication on an action plan on VAT.  

The European Council welcomed the submission by the Commission of the package on energy security. It underlined the EU's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions domestically and to increase the share of renewable energies and improve energy efficiency as agreed by the European Council in October 2014.  Adapting the legislation to implement this framework is a priority. EU leaders look forward to the signature of the Paris Agreement in New York on 22 April and its entry into force.

Last reviewed on 13/02/2017