European Council, 09-10/03/2017
The EU leaders looked at a number of the most pressing issues, including economy, security, migration and the situation in Western Balkans.
On Friday, the 27 leaders met informally to discuss preparations for the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties.
Election of the President
The European Council re-elected Donald Tusk as its President for a second term of two and a half years, from 1 June 2017 to 30 November 2019. Donald Tusk was also re-appointed as President of the Euro Summit for the same period.
"Thank you for your trust in me, for your great support in these unusual circumstances. (…)I will work with all of you without any exception because I am truly devoted to the united Europe."Donald Tusk in his acceptance speech after the re-election
The European Council decided to come back, later this year, to the process, criteria and balances needed regarding high-level appointments for the next institutional cycle.
Jobs, growth and competitiveness
The leaders assessed the economic situation in the EU and the euro area, concluding that the reforms implemented by the member states since 2008 are bearing fruit:
- the economic recovery is continuing with positive growth across the member states, and the outlook is encouraging
- the unemployment level is at its lowest since 2009
- the state of public finances is improving and investment is growing
To ensure the sustainability of the economic recovery, the leaders called for structural reforms, strengthening of public finances and promotion of investment, including through the swift extension of the European fund for strategic investments.
Advancing on single market strategies
The implementation of various single market strategies by 2018 remains the EU's shared objective. The European Council therefore expects an effective implementation of decisions that have already been taken and calls for swift progress on current legislative proposals.
The European Council will review progress in June 2017.
The leaders welcomed the positive vote in the European Parliament on the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and looked forward to its imminent provisional application.
"The EU remains strongly committed to a robust trade policy and an open and rules-based multilateral trading system, with a central role for the World Trade Organisation (WTO)," the leaders concluded.
At the same time, they called for the quick adoption of legislative proposals that would equip the EU with WTO-compatible tools to tackle unfair trade practices and market distortions.
The leaders also confirmed that the EU will resolutely advance on all ongoing negotiations for free trade agreements, including with Mercosur and Mexico; negotiations with Japan being closest to conclusion.
Trade relations with China should be strengthened on the basis of a shared understanding of reciprocal and mutual benefits.
"Europe remains the champion of open, rules-based trade (...)At the same time we will not hesitate to defend ourselves against unfair trading practices, wherever necessary. We want to set the global standard for free and fair trade."Donald Tusk at the European Council press conference
The leaders reiterated the need to complete the banking union in terms of reducing and sharing risks in the financial sector. They emphasised the importance of international cooperation on the design of common prudential and supervisory standards for financial services.
As part of the European Semester - the EU's annual economic policy coordination process - the leaders endorsed policy priorities for 2017, as set out in this year's annual growth survey, and the draft Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area for 2017. The member states are expected to take these priorities into account in their national policies.
As concerns the social dimension of economic growth, the leaders look forward to the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth, which is to take place in Gothenburg on 17 November 2017.
Security and defence
The heads of state or government assessed the implementation of its December 2016 conclusions on external security and defence. Leaders welcomed the progress achieved, as outlined at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 6 March, and called on for additional action and resources. They recalled the importance of implementing the proposals set out in the joint declaration for enhanced cooperation with NATO.
EU leaders also discussed internal security and the fight against terrorism. They called on co-legislators to:
- agree on the proposal for an entry-exit system by June 2017
- speed up work on the proposal for the European travel information and authorisation system (ETIAS)
Prime Minister Muscat reported on progress in implementing operational measures agreed at the informal meeting in Malta on 3 February 2017 regarding the Central Mediterranean route.
The leaders reiterated its determination to deliver on all the elements of the Malta Declaration. They said that they stand behind actions undertaken by individual member states to support the Libyan authorities as well as their North African and southern neighbours.
They invited the Council to rapidly examine the Commission communication on a renewed action plan on return, and to pursue work on EU readmission arrangements with third countries.
The heads of state or government reiterated their determination to deliver on all aspects of the EU's migration policy, and to achieve consensus on the reform of EU's asylum policy during the Maltese presidency.
Heads of state or government discussed the situation in the Western Balkans. Leaders stressed the need of continuing on the reform path, good neighbourly relations and inclusive regional cooperation initiatives.
"To the countries of the region, we expressed our full commitment to support EU-oriented reforms and projects. I hope this positive signal from the EU will be heard in the region."Donald Tusk at the final press conference
European Public Prosecutor's Office
The leaders also took note of the impossibility to reach a consensus on the creation of a European Public Prosecutor Office (EPPO). This opens the door to establishing an enhanced cooperation between a group of at least nine member states.
On Friday 10 March the 27 leaders met informally to prepare for the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties and discussed the main elements of the Rome Declaration.
The debate focused on the EU future, including the idea of a multi-speed Europe.
"Some expect systemic changes that would loosen intra-EU ties and strengthen the role of nations in relation to the community. Others, quite the opposite, are looking for new, deeper dimensions of integration," said President Tusk, summing up the discussions.
He highlighted that, considering the interests of the community of 27 countries in the context of the upcoming Brexit negotiations and the long-term strategic interests of the EU, he would be urging everyone to strive towards maintaining political unity among the 27.
"When discussing the various scenarios for Europe, our main objective should be to strengthen mutual trust and unity among 27. And after today's debate I can openly say that all 27 leaders agree with this objective."Donald Tusk at the final press conference