Remarks by President Donald Tusk after the first session of the European Council meeting
The first day of the Spring European Council is over. We began with a standing silence for the victims of yesterday's terrible attacks in Tunis. The killing of innocent tourists in the Bardo museum, including many Europeans, is an example of how militant terrorism threatens people everywhere.
Today, leaders agreed to create an Energy Union and set out the first steps. The European Union will accelerate the connection of national pipelines and electricity grids. Much of our discussion this time focused on energy security. The European Union depends more and more on gas from external suppliers. Where gas is imported from different sources and contracts are flexible, things are fine. But most bilateral contracts with our dominant supplier, Russia, are concluded on a long term basis, sometimes more than 20 years. That can be unhealthy. Both for our security, and for our market. Gas contracts should be about the economy, about business. They should not be used as political weapons.
European Union leaders have decided that all gas contracts - between governments or businesses - must be in line with EU law, must be more transparent and should not negatively impact Europe's energy security. The exact details will be set out by the Commission very swiftly in draft legislation. We agreed to explore how European companies could voluntarily join up and buy gas from external suppliers. And also how to achieve strategic partnerships with countries that are increasingly important for the production and transit of energy.
Finally, we will develop innovation strategies that will allow the European Union to improve energy efficiency in important sectors, and benefit from a new generation of renewables. Importantly, leaders also agreed today to step up our climate diplomacy and make a big push for a successful Paris Climate Summit in December. The European Council will come back to the Energy Union before the end of the year.
This evening, we discussed Ukraine and Russia. Leaders decided to align our sanctions regime to the implementation of the Minsk agreements brokered by Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande. The European Council agreed that the duration of economic sanctions will be clearly linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements, bearing in mind that this is only foreseen by the end of 2015. Additionally, the European Council stands ready to take further decisions if necessary.
We also stressed the need to challenge Russia's ongoing campaign of public disinformation about the conflict in Ukraine. The High Representative will prepare an action plan on strategic communication for the June European Council.
In the meantime, the European Union still stands ready to support the ceasefire process and to respond positively to progress made. And we will continue to support Ukraine's internal reform programme, including financially.
This will be the last time European Union leaders meet together before the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga on May 21st. The European Union is fully committed to the Eastern Partnership. Leaders agreed a priority area is to help build up state institutions and strengthen the rule of law, based on each country's needs and preferences. In other words, the next phase will be about strengthening the democratic institutions to the east.
That concludes our work for this evening. We re-convene tomorrow morning to discuss the European economy and to turn to the Southern neighbourhood, notably Libya and Tunisia.