European Council
Council of the European Union

Remarks by President Donald Tusk at the 16th EU-Canada summit

European Council
  • 30/10/2016
  • 15:15
  • Statements and remarks
  • 626/16
  • International trade & customs
  • Home Affairs
  • Foreign affairs & international relations
Press contacts

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

Prime Minister Trudeau, dear Justin. Let me first of all say what a great pleasure it is for me to welcome you in Brussels. This is arguably the most highly anticipated summit in recent memory, and you are a most precious guest. We had to overcome various obstacles, including a technical one with your plane, to make this summit happen.

But finally we can celebrate our strong friendship and Strategic Partnership. To me, Canada is the most European country outside of Europe, our strong ally, important partner and good friend.

That is why I am proud we have just signed two landmark agreements, the EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA. We would not have made it without the dedication and commitment of all parties, including yours, Justin and that of your trade minister, the fully devoted Chrystia Freeland. But also my colleagues in the EU, Belgian Prime Minister Michel, President Jean-Claude Juncker, Commissioner Malmström and President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz. It was not easy to get here, but as a Canadian proverb says, 'patience is a tree whose root is bitter, but its fruit is very sweet'.

These agreements reach far beyond the trade context. Today's decisions demonstrate that the disintegration of the Western community does not need to become a lasting trend. That we still possess enough strength and determination at least some of us - to counter the fatalism of the decay of our political world. In this particular moment in the EU's history, this positive sign means a great deal. And for this I would also like to thank our guests very much indeed.

The battle for CETA also showed how important impressions and emotions are in the modern world. It showed that facts and figures won't stand up for themselves alone. That post-factual reality and post-truth politics pose a great challenge on both sides of the Atlantic. Free trade and globalisation have protected hundreds of millions of people from poverty and hunger. The problem is that few people believe this. Free trade and globalisation protect humanity from total conflict, the problem is that few people understand this. The controversy around CETA has demonstrated that our first priority is to give people honest and convincing information about the real effects of free trade. That the alternative to free trade is isolationism and protectionism, a return to national egoisms, and as a result - the threat of violent conflict. We should be able to convince our citizens that free trade is in their interest, and not just big companies and corporations.

Today we also signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement. It provides a robust framework for expanding our cooperation in a wide range of areas including foreign policy, crisis management, security and defence, energy and climate, enhanced mobility and people-to-people exchanges. I welcome the decision by Canada to lift visa requirements for all Bulgarian and Romanian citizens in late 2017.

Last but not least, migration is a key topic where our cooperation with Canada is extremely important. Canada's responsible approach to sharing the burden sets an excellent example for others. Prime Minister, the EU warmly welcomes your government's efforts to resettle more than 33 000 Syrian refugees since you took office, as well as your financial support and participation in NATO's engagement in the Aegean.

To conclude, let me say that together we are strengthening our global cooperation, including in the G7 context. The challenges ahead are huge, and so we need to be united and tough. Thank you.