European Council President Spokesperson
Good evening. Let me first of all thank you, President Iohannis, for your hospitality and for receiving me on short notice here in Bucharest. Our meeting today is part of my final round of consultations in the run up to the European Council in only three days' time. It will be a crucial summit with the two biggest challenges to the future of the European Union on the agenda: The United Kingdom's future membership of the European Union and the migration crisis. On neither can we afford to fail.
Let me begin with the United Kingdom. These are difficult but also hugely important negotiations. At stake is the United Kingdom's membership of the EU. A question which only the British people can and will decide. At stake is also the future of our European Union where we will all have to decide together, and where we cannot and will not compromise on the fundamental freedoms and values. It is in this spirit that I drafted my proposal for a new settlement for the UK in the EU.
There are still a number of outstanding political issues that we will have to agree on. These include the questions of future treaty change, a so-called emergency brake for non-euro area countries, a safeguard mechanism on access to in-work benefits, and finally the notion of ever closer union.
In Romania as well as in other EU countries, the issue of social benefits continues to be the most difficult one. Let me assure you that the proposal I have put on the table is a fair and balanced one. The safeguard mechanism on access to in-work benefits is not designed to apply to EU citizens currently working in the UK. This proposal protects the freedom of movement, while helping the UK to address its concerns when it comes to their specific system of in-work benefits.
After my talks today with President Iohannis, Prime Minister Cameron, and President Hollande and before meeting Prime Minister Tsipras, Prime Minister Sobotka and Chancellor Merkel tomorrow, I have only one political reflection: This is a critical moment. It is high time we started listening to each other's arguments more than to our own. It is natural in negotiations that positions harden, as we get closer to crunch time. But the risk of break-up is real because this process is indeed very fragile. Handle with care. What is broken cannot be mended.
Let me briefly turn to migration, which President Iohannis and I also discussed today. The migratory crisis we are witnessing now is testing our Union to its limits.
This week, I want leaders to engage in an honest discussion on where we stand on all the elements of our strategy. Most important is the protection of our external borders to stem the flow of migrants. Likewise, we must step up the return of economic migrants. We must increase our humanitarian assistance to Syria's neighbouring countries. We must make sure our agreement with Turkey works and delivers a very significant drop in numbers of arrivals; something we are still waiting to see. We must urgently address the humanitarian situation of migrants in Greece and along the Western Balkans route.
So, I am afraid we have a lot of work ahead of us. Together, as a Union, we will have to do our best to overcome all the challenges. I thank you for your constructive approach which should allow us to move forward, together. Mulțumesc, thank you!