Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the tripartite social summit
European Council President Spokesperson
Good afternoon. Today's Tripartite Social Summit was the first one here in our new colourful and optimistic Europa building.
Let me start with some good news. For the first time in almost a decade the economies of all 28 EU Member States are growing now. There is still a long way to go on unemployment, but this favourable outlook is nonetheless significant. This is the moment to do what must be done to achieve healthy, long-term growth and address issues of social justice. The social partners' input will be key in making sure that the improvements on the economic front benefit all, and not just a lucky few.
The coming months will set the political and economic tone to 2020. That includes the Brexit talks, which we expect will start soon. When the UK notifies, it is our goal to react with the draft negotiation guidelines for the 27 Member States to consider. For this I think we need more or less 48 hours. Leaders will then meet, probably in April, to finalise these. But as for now we are still waiting for the U.K. to trigger.
Negotiating the political and technical hurdles of Brexit will be our daily challenge. But there is also the work to chart a future course for the EU27. On Friday morning, EU27 leaders will meet informally to prepare the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Treaty of Rome. The anniversary will be a moment for reflection and unity, but also a moment to set the direction of the EU for the decade to come.
The European social partners have every reason to celebrate this anniversary, as for 60 years companies, entrepreneurs and workers played a central role in bringing alive the treaty's theoretical freedoms for ordinary citizens. It is an achievement which today needs to be defended, protected and deepened. And this is why I am very much looking forward to attending an extraordinary meeting between the European social partners and the European institutions in Rome on 24 March. The meeting will be hosted by Prime Minister Gentiloni, in cooperation with Presidents Juncker, Tajani and myself, as well as Prime Ministers Muscat, Ratas and Löfven.
At the European Council tomorrow, leaders will discuss our agenda for jobs, growth and competitiveness. We need to do what we can at European level to maintain the positive economic momentum. Internally, our main tools are the Single Market including the Digital Single Market, and the European Fund for Strategic Investments. Externally, trade remains key to Europe's economic success. Leaders will want to signal our continued strong support for free and fair trade, and an open and rules-based multilateral trading system. This message matters, not least in view of the protectionist signs around the globe.
Tomorrow, leaders will also consider other pressing challenges facing the Union. Our discussion on the Western Balkans will be an important one. We are worried about the rising tensions and destabilisation of the region, both from within and from outside forces. The High Representative will report on her trip to the region last week. On migration, the European Union has to keep delivering on the Bratislava and Malta summits. The Eastern Mediterranean Route is staying virtually closed, but there is still much work to be done on the Central Mediterranean Route.
On security and defence, important decisions have been taken at the December European Council, notably that the EU will assume more responsibility for its own security, and that we are ready to dedicate sufficient additional resources for that. Now we need to keep the momentum.