EM Ireland: Just the Facts – Bratislava Summit of 27 EU Member States
On Friday 16 September, EU leaders, not including UK Prime Minister Theresa May, met in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, in order to lay the ground for the future with 27 EU Member States. A Declaration and a Roadmap, which sets out the objectives for the coming months, were agreed at the informal Summit. The 27 EU leaders previously met on 29 June to discuss the political and practical implications of Brexit.
Aims of the Summit
As agreed at the informal meeting of the 27 EU leaders on 29 June in Brussels, the Bratislava Summit was to begin a “political reflection” to give impulse to further reforms and to the development of the EU with 27 Member States. Describing the EU as “not perfect” yet “indispensable”, the 27 leaders aimed to identify the main common challenges and priorities. These were outlined in the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap, laying out a work programme for the coming months.
Ahead of the Summit, President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, consulted EU leaders bilaterally. On the basis of these consultations, President Tusk identified three main challenges to be discussed in Bratislava: irregular migration; terrorism; and unease about the impact of globalisation. At the meeting, the 27 leaders agreed more generally to improve communication between each other and with citizens in order to provide more clarity in decision-making. They also welcomed the State of the Union address given by European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, on 14 September. Having discussed the key priorities for the coming months, the following issues were outlined in the Bratislava Roadmap with objectives and concrete measures to be pursued.
Migration and external borders
It was agreed to further bring down the number of irregular migrants, to fully secure the external borders of the EU, to restore the Schengen area of free movement, and to broaden the overall EU consensus on long-term migration policy.
To this end, the 27 leaders agreed on:
• The full implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement and to provide support to Western Balkan countries;
• The provision of immediate assistance to Bulgaria in strengthening its external border with Turkey, as well as support to other frontline Member States;
• The delivery of full capacity to the recently formalised European Border and Coast Guard;
• The encouragement of cooperation and dialogue with non-EU countries in order to reduce flows of illegal migration.
Internal and external security
It was agreed to do everything necessary to ensure internal security and the fight against terrorism.
This would be achieved through:
• Intensified cooperation and information exchange among Member States’ security services;
• Adoption of measures to ensure that all persons crossing the EU’s external borders are checked against relevant databases;
• The establishment of a Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to facilitate advance checks on those entering the EU;
• Further efforts against radicalisation through prevention, as well as expulsions and entry bans where necessary.
As regards external security and defence, EU cooperation is to be strengthened in light of the challenging geopolitical environment.
Measures proposed included:
• Decisions on a concrete implementation plan on security and defence capabilities at the European Council meeting in December;
• The implementation of the joint declaration with NATO, signed in July 2016.
Economic and social development and youth
It was agreed to create a promising economic future for all, safeguarding the European way of life and provide better opportunities for youth.
Agreed measures included:
• A decision on the extension of the European Fund for Strategic Investment;
• Review on progress regarding the delivery of several Single Market strategies including the Digital Single Market, Capital Markets Union and Energy Union, at the European Council meeting in Spring 2017;
• Discussions at the October European Council meeting relating to a robust trade policy, taking into account the concerns of citizens;
• Decisions on support for EU Member States to combat youth unemployment and to enhance EU programmes dedicated to youth.
In the Bratislava Declaration, the 27 EU leaders committed to offer the citizens of Europe “a vision of an attractive EU they can trust and support”. The meeting in Bratislava was seen as the beginning of a process, with further elaboration and discussion on these themes to take place at the upcoming meetings of the European Council, which will include the UK until Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union is triggered. The leaders of the 27 EU Member States will again meet informally at the beginning of 2017 in Valletta, Malta as well as in Rome, Italy in March 2017 to round off the process launched in Bratislava and set out orientations for a common future.
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