European Council President Spokesperson
This morning, we had useful discussions with the social partners on their role in stepping up employment and growth in Europe. The recovery is under way, but Europe continues to pay the social costs of the crisis. The political damage, I have in mind the rise of populism for example, is also growing. Our exchange highlighted that we need to work on the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union. The Five Presidents' Report has given us ideas on how to do this.
The Social Summit also discussed the refugee crisis, including the challenge of receiving and integrating refugees coming to Europe with no prospect of being able to return home in the medium term. The social partners have a huge role to play here. And finally, we also discussed the possible impact the migration influx may have on the European labour market and our economy.
Let me now turn to the European Council. We agreed in September that our priority should be strengthening the EU´s external borders, as well as increasing our support for the countries in the neighbourhood and the refugees there. And today we will build on that.
First, I expect leaders to agree a set of conclusions that will make full use of Frontex now and develop it into a more operational body, including the right to initiate and conduct returns, and be pro-active when it comes to protecting external borders.
Second, in the context of Valetta Summit with the African countries, Turkey and the wider Middle East region, we will discuss what the "more for more" principle should mean in practice. The aim of all these talks will be an effective return and readmission policy, prevention of illegal migration, and creating legal migration channels.
But at the same time we must turn words into deeds when it comes to financial assistance to the region. National pledges to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to the World Food Programme that helps provide food to the displaced people in the region, and to the EU trust funds for the countries of origin and transit have not been fulfilled. We can and must do much better here. This is a point I will make tonight.
Third, we will address the very complex situation in the region. Our talks with Turkey are ongoing. Libya is still volatile. And the situation in Syria is deteriorating. All this may lead to a new massive exodus of refugees. It is our obligation to be prepared for all possible scenarios. We must ask ourselves if the decisions we are going to take are sufficient to contain a new migratory wave.
Finally, leaders need to start discussing, together, some of the big challenges in the medium and long term. On the future of the Dublin system, which is now in force. On the specific role of hotspots in light of different opinions regarding their character and purpose. And on the strengthening of our external borders, including a possible EU border and coast guard system. We will not find a solution today but we need to start a serious discussion.
I also want to add how impressed I was by what was said during the tripartite social summit about the problem of refugees. That this problem, this challenge, can be transformed into an opportunity. And that it is crucial here to combine realism with decency, pragmatism with solidarity. Our partners showed an approach towards refugees without any prejudice, without ideological orthodoxies, help-oriented and full of common sense. For me this is a source of cautious optimism, and I thank you for your support in this context. Thank you.