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Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the first session of the European Council meeting

European Council
  • 17/12/2015
  • 23:55
  • Statements and remarks
  • 950/15
  • Home Affairs
  • Institutional affairs
17/12/2015
Press contacts

Jüri Laas
Press officer
+32 22815523
+32 470957561

Preben Aamann
European Council President Spokesperson
+32 22815150
+32 476850543

Good evening. Today, leaders discussed the handling of the migration crisis. All the elements of a strategy are there, but there is still a delivery deficit when it comes to hotspots, relocation, resettlement and returns. Above all, we are failing to protect our external borders. That is why leaders have decided to speed up on all these issues.

In my view, the most important discussion today was on the EU's external borders. Not only because I have been advocating external border control from the very beginning of this crisis, but also because without it we will fail as a political community. And by that I mean potentially more serious consequences than dismantling Schengen. Tonight, we can be a bit more optimistic, because all leaders have agreed to protect Schengen. In this context, we agreed to rapidly examine the European Commission's proposal of strengthening the EU's external borders, including the European Border Guard idea. Ministers should adopt their position by July, but the leaders' broad acceptance means that in the future Europe will not remain vulnerable because the Schengen border is insufficiently protected.

This evening I have also received good news from Frontex about an agreement with Greece on deploying a Rapid Border Intervention Team already in December. This is yet another indication that we have started to move in the right direction when it comes to the protection of the external border.

On the UK, we had a substantive and constructive discussion over dinner. I didn't want to sound too dramatic before the meeting but I do believe that tonight was a make-or-break moment. Prime Minister Cameron set out in detail his position, in particular regarding benefits and free movement. He explained his request for a model based on four years and reiterated the openness to alternative solutions only if they could achieve the same objective. Leaders voiced their concerns, but also demonstrated willingness to look for compromises. Building on this positive debate, we agreed to work together to find solutions in all four baskets raised by PM Cameron. Hard work on all baskets is still ahead of us. First, we will work closely with the UK and the Commission. And in the run-up to the February European Council, I will table a concrete text to all the leaders.

The European Council will reconvene tomorrow at 10 to discuss strengthening the Economic and Monetary Union and the Energy Union, as well as the fight against terrorism. Thank you