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Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the tripartite social summit

European Council
  • 19/03/2015
  • 13:30
  • Statements and remarks
  • 133/15
  • Social affairs
  • Foreign affairs & international relations
  • Energy
  • Employment
  • Economy & finance
19/03/2015

Before anything else, I would like to express my sympathies to the families of the people murdered in Tunis yesterday, including several European Union nationals. Yet more lives lost senselessly in the name of a dark ideology. We will not forget the victims and this tragic day.

We have just had a useful exchange with the social partners at the first of two Tri-partite summits this year. The European economy is clearly improving. We heard today how a number of economic factors are playing in our favour: declining oil prices, a boost for exports due to the weaker euro, a boost to investment with the European Fund for Strategic Investments, and the ECB's bond buying programme.

We also discussed frankly our ongoing challenges. Unemployment is still unacceptably high in some countries, and there is an urgent need for labour market reforms in the eurozone. However, the economic tide is turning. And by continuing with structural reforms, we are ensuring that this will be a long-term improvement, not a brief crack of light.

Now let me turn to our busy European Council agenda later today and tomorrow. We will discuss the Energy Union first this afternoon. Energy is, as it has always been, at the heart of the European project. Today, European citizens and companies urgently need an energy supply that is secure, affordable and sustainable. Our new Energy Union will reform and re-organise our energy policy to be a resilient foundation stone of a new European economy. That cannot be done all at once. So this afternoon I would first like to focus on security of supply as a first step.

Later this evening, we will prepare for the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga in May. The European Union's commitment to all six countries remains firm. We now plan to build on the agreement further by helping our partners strengthen the rule of law and bolster weak institutions. In other words: state-building. Each country is unique, at different stages, with different needs. So our future assistance has to be more tailored to each individual situation.

Of course, we will also discuss Ukraine and Russia and the state of play on the implementation of the Minsk agreements. One of the best ways of supporting Ukraine will be through upholding the sanctions pressure on Russia until we witness a full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. This must ultimately conclude in Ukraine regaining control of its borders, as foreseen in the plan brokered by President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel.

On Friday morning, we will discuss the very serious situation in Libya. On top of the immediate need for stability and peace, we have serious concerns about increased terrorist activity there, not only in Libya but in the whole region. And we cannot accept the tragic daily spectacle of migrants drowning at sea. To confront these challenges properly, there must be a political solution without delay and a Libyan government of national unity.

To conclude two days that began with the social summit, we will discuss the outlook for economic growth and the implementation of key structural reforms undertaken by Member States.

Finally, a word on TTIP, which we will also briefly discuss tomorrow morning. My recent talks in Washington with President Obama have convinced me more than ever of the economic and strategic importance of TTIP. We have to engage more intensively with each other and the public to get momentum behind this vital agreement.