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European Council
Council of the European Union

Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting in Prague with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka

European Council
  • 16/02/2016
  • 16:15
  • Statements and remarks
  • 69/16
  • Home Affairs
  • Institutional affairs
16/02/2016
Press contacts

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

Good afternoon. Let me begin by thanking you, Prime Minister, for your warm welcome here in Prague. Also in your capacity as the Visegrad Group (V4) Presidency. Thank you for your constructive attitude and approach, which is helpful for V4 and for all of Europe.

Our meeting today is part of my final round of consultations in the run up to the European Council in only two days' time. It will be a summit dealing with two main challenges: The United Kingdom's future membership of the European Union and the migration crisis. On both topics, the Czech Republic and the Visegrad Group hold strong views.

First on Britain: At stake is the United Kingdom as member of the EU. A question which ultimately only the British people will decide. But the answer will affect us all. At stake are also changes to the functioning of the European Union, where we will all have to decide together, and where we cannot and will not compromise on our 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 unsolved problems such as future treaty change, an emergency brake for non-euro area countries, a safeguard mechanism on access to in-work benefits, and finally the notion of ever closer union. We need to find solutions to all those issues.

In the Czech Republic as well as in other Visegrad countries, the issue of access to social benefits continues to be among the most sensitive. I believe that the proposal I have put on the table is fair and balanced; for all. It protects the freedom of movement, while helping the UK to address all its concerns when it comes to their specific system of in-work benefits. The safeguard mechanism on access to in-work benefits is not designed to apply to EU citizens currently working in the UK. We will now have to sort out the remaining issues in a constructive spirit of trust and cooperation. The position of V4 is very clear. In view of that I have no doubts: There is an extra mile we will have to walk to reach an agreement.

Let me add a remark on migration, which we will also discuss on Thursday. I hope the bilateral support you have offered to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to protect its borders can make a difference, especially when it comes to the humanitarian situation in the Western Balkans. Still, we must not forget about our fellow EU Member States most affected by this crisis, such as Greece. They need our continued and even increased assistance to cope with the flows. We need to help them protect their borders and to receive the migrants in a proper way. This is what I discussed with Prime Minister Tsipras earlier today in Athens. We all need to show solidarity. And that also means respecting and implementing all our common decisions and rules. From protecting our borders to relocating refugees. Let me be very clear: Only when united can we solve this crisis.

Let me conclude by thanking you once again for receiving me here in Prague, Prime Minister. Děkuji moc.