Political reflection on the future of the European Union

European Council

Following the results of the UK referendum, the heads of state or government of the 27 met in Bratislava on 16 September 2016 to begin a political reflection on the future of the EU with 27 member countries.

In the Bratislava declaration the leaders set out the general principles for action: 

  • focusing on citizens' expectations and  serving better their needs 
  • improving communication and cooperation between member states
  • delivering on promises and making the EU 27 a success

Leaders agreed on the Bratislava Roadmap, which will guide EU action over the next months. 27 leaders will meet again in Malta on 3 February 2017 and conclude the reflection process in Rome on 25 March 2017, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties. 

The formal European Council meetings in October 2016, December 2016 and March 2017 will allow for concrete follow up on the objectives agreed in Bratislava. 

"I hope that the Bratislava summit will lead to the renewing of trust and confidence in the European Union. This will only happen if and when people realise that we are delivering on our promises through loyal cooperation between member states and institutions." 

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council


3 February

Informal summit of EU heads of state or government in Malta

The informal summit, hosted by the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and chaired by European Council President Donald Tusk, was an occasion for the 27 leaders to prepare for the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties on 25 March 2017.      

The discussions built upon the political reflection on the future of the EU with 27 member states, launched immediately after the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016 and continued in Bratislava on 16 September 2016.  

31 January

Letter on the future of Europe

"United we stand, divided we fall", said Donald Tusk ahead of the Malta summit.  

In his letter sent to the 27 heads of state or government, President of the European Council identified three main threats, which threaten the stability of Europe. These include:  

  • new geopolitical situation: an increasingly assertive China, Russia's aggressive policy towards Ukraine and its neighbours, wars, terror and anarchy in the Middle East and in Africa (with radical Islam playing a major role) and "worrying declarations" by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable
  • internal situation: a rise of the nationalist, increasingly xenophobic sentiment in the EU itself
  • state of mind of the pro-European elites: decline of faith in political integration, submission to populist arguments and doubt in the fundamental values of liberal democracy  

In the letter, President Donald Tusk called on the leaders to stay united. 

"It must be made crystal clear that the disintegration of the European Union will not lead to the restoration of some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states, but to their real and factual dependence on the great superpowers: the United States, Russia and China. Only together can we be fully independent", Tusk said.  


13 December

Council agrees negotiating position on trade defence instruments

The Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) agreed on the Council's negotiating position on a proposal to modernise the EU's trade defence instruments.  

The proposed regulation amends current anti-dumping and anti-subsidies regulations to better respond to unfair trade practices. The purpose is to shield EU producers from damage caused by unfair competition, ensuring free and fair trade. 

7 December

Agreement on systematic checks at external borders

The Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) approved a compromise text agreed with the European Parliament on an amendment to the Schengen Borders Code to reinforce checks against relevant databases at external borders.  

7 December

European Border and Coast Guard Agency launches rapid reaction pool

The rapid reaction pool is made of 1 500 officers committed by EU member states and Schengen associated countries. In a crisis situation, they will be put at the immediate disposal of Frontex, which can deploy them within five working days.

6 December

Council agrees to extend the European fund for strategic investments

The Council agreed its stance on a proposal to extend the lifespan of the European fund for strategic investments (EFSI), the EU's flagship initiative under its 'investment plan for Europe'.  

The agreed compromise involves extending the EFSI in terms of both duration and financial capacity, mobilising at least half a trillion euros of investments by 2020. It also introduces a number of operational improvements to take account of lessons learned from the first year of implementation. 

6 December

Common set of proposals to implement the EU-NATO joint declaration

The Council adopts conclusions on the Implementation of the EU-NATO Joint Declaration, endorsing 40 proposals in the 7 areas. These proposals are endorsed on the same day by the North Atlantic Council. 

14 November

Implementation plan on security and defence

EU foreign and defence ministers discuss the implementation plan on security and defence under the EU global strategy. They set out the level of ambition and  the way forward on the future development of EU security and defence policy.

30 October

CETA signature

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council,  Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and  Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada met in Brussels for the 16th EU-Canada summit. They signed the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) and issued a joint declaration on the EU-Canada partnership.

20-21 October

European Council, 20-21 October 2016

Leaders took stock of the state-of-play regarding the Bratislava Roadmap.  Prime Minister Fico briefed them on the results so far, including the Paris Agreement ratification and the launch of the European Border and Coast Guard.

6 October

Launch of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency was officially launched on 6 October 2016. The launch event took place at the Kapitan Andreevo Border Checkpoint at the Bulgarian external border with Turkey. 

"We are creating a new reality at our external borders. This is a tangible outcome of the joint commitment agreed in the Bratislava Roadmap, as well as a practical display of unity among member states," said Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia and holder of the rotating Presidency of the Council. "It will help us to get back to Schengen," he added. 

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency will closely monitor the EU's external borders and work together with member states to quickly identify and address any potential security threats to the EU's external borders. 

5 October

EU ratifies the Paris Agreement

The EU officially ratified the Paris Agreement, which also triggered its entry into force. Representatives of the Council presidency and the European Commission deposited the official documents for ratification with the UN's Secretary-General.

The agreement enters into force 30 days after the ratification by at least 55 countries accounting for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This threshold was achieved after the ratification by the EU and 7 of its member states.

The entry into force will take place before the beginning of the Marrakesh climate change conference  on 7-18 November 2016. 

16 September

Bratislava summit, 16 September 2016

The heads of state or government of the 27 met in Bratislava to begin a political reflection on further development of an EU with 27 member countries.

Leaders agreed on the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap, which set out the objectives for the coming months: 

  • restoring full control of the external borders
  • ensuring internal security and fighting terrorism
  • strengthening EU cooperation on external security and defence
  • boosting the single market and offering better opportunities for  young Europeans

18 August - 15 September

Consultations ahead of the Bratislava summit

In August and September 2016 President Tusk consulted all the EU leaders ahead of the meeting in Bratislava

"I have no doubt that the three main challenges are uncontrolled irregular migration, terrorism, and the fears of globalisation," said President Tusk before his meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in Stockholm. "My ambition is that in Bratislava we can agree on the main priorities and what we need to do about them in the next few months." 

On 8 September, President Tusk also travelled to London to exchange views with British Prime Minister Theresa May.  

29 June

Informal meeting of the 27 EU heads of state or government, 29 June 2016

The 27 leaders met informally to discuss the way forward after the referendum in the UK on 23 June 2016.

"We are determined to remain united and work in the framework of the EU to deal with the challenges of the 21st century and find solutions in the interest of our nations and peoples," they said in the joint statement. 

Leaders agreed on the following principles: 

  • there can be no negotiations with the UK before the notification of Article 50
  • in the future, UK should be a close partner of the EU
  • agreements will have to be based on a balance between rights and obligations
  • access to the single market requires acceptance of all four freedoms

 The 27 leaders agreed to meet again in September 2016 to continue talks on the future of the EU.