The relations between the European Union and Africa were at the heart of the debate on migration and refugees. Chancellor Angel Merkel called for a "close partnership", but also said that the European side has "a lot to learn in order to do the right thing". She was referring to the impacts of development aid, appropriate levels of financing, and above all also private-sector investment.
Fighting illegal migration
In this context, the leaders also discussed ways of fighting illegal migration. There was a clear consensus that there must be legal ways of entering Europe, by issuing visas and for vocational and technical education and training. The heads of state and government, reported Angela Merkel, also welcomed the proposals of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex. The question of reallocating migrants was not, however, central to this meeting. It was clear in advance that no agreement would be reached on this point.
By contrast, significant progress has been made with respect to the fight against illegal migration and trafficker networks. Angela Merkel stressed, "We need to resolve the problems. We must also talk about the refugees who come to Europe." Commenting on the debate over a fairer redistribution within the EU, she stated clearly, "It cannot be the case that every state can simply choose what it would like to do. A lot more discussions will be needed here. We are still a long way from the desired end."
Brexit negotiations: progress needed by October
Angela Merkel specifically thanked Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, and his team for their work. "They are doing excellent, very precise work. The member states are being involved in an excellent way."
She called for substantial progress to be made by October, so that results can be achieved in November. She said great progress has already been made on the withdrawal agreement, but warned, "We still have a lot of work ahead of us in conjunction with the future relationship and the political declaration this presupposes."
"We all agreed that there can be no compromises on the Single Market," stressed Angela Merkel. Michel Barnier will continue negotiations on this basis. "You cannot be part of the Single Market if you are not a member of the Single Market." Nevertheless, a great deal of creativity can be developed in the negotiations in order to identify good, practicable solutions.
Again, the Chancellor called for the negotiations to be conducted in a positive spirit. "The way we come to an agreement will also be instrumental in determining the shape of our future relationship."
Europe demonstrates solidarity in the face of disasters
Angela Merkel supported the calls of member states to make provision for fighting natural disasters like forest fires. She did, however, point out "that we should have capacities in member states that can be made available if and when needed". There is no point in setting up European units, she said. It makes more sense to have a pool that can be drawn on as needed.
No written conclusions are planned, as is generally the case for informal meetings. The work of this informal meeting will be incorporated in the work and the conclusions of the next meetings of the European Council.