Assistance for 60,000 refugees

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European Council meeting in Brussels Assistance for 60,000 refugees

The EU states intend to organise the distribution of 60,000 refugees on a voluntary basis: that is the outcome of the European Council meeting in Brussels. Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the refugee problem is one of the greatest challenges facing the EU.

"We have decided that we will be providing assistance for 60,000 people," said Angela Merkel at the summit meeting in Brussels. This figure includes 40,000 people who have already arrived in the EU, many in Italy and Greece, and are now to be distributed throughout the EU. Another 20,000 refugees from areas in the throes of civil war are to be admitted to the EU.

The redistribution is to be take place on a voluntary basis, "with all member states willing to become involved", said Angela Merkel.

Intensive debate on the distribution of refugees

"I am absolutely convinced that we are facing one of the greatest challenges the European Union has seen," declared Angela Merkel, referring to the refugee problem. The Chancellor spoke of a "very important and necessary debate" that the heads of state and government had conducted over the distribution of refugees.

The agreement now reached on a voluntary basis is "a small step forward, but more steps will have to follow". Although the discussions were complicated, "the common political will to achieve a solution was tangible, so that there should be enough scope even on a voluntary basis". Here too the principle applies that solidarity must go hand in hand with the efforts of those affected, added Angela Merkel.

The European Council agreed on a policy on returning migrants who have no legal entitlement to stay in the EU.

More development assistance to combat the root causes

The European Council also discussed ways of tackling the factors that force people to leave their homes in the first place. It looked at ways of improving cooperation with African partners and making development assistance more effective.

Angela Merkel pointed out that the German government will be spending 8.3 billion euros more on development assistance with a focus on tackling the root causes of migration.

The summit of EU heads of state and government and African states to be held in Malta later this year is felt to be "crucially important".

Back in April, at a special meeting, the European Council looked at the issue of refugees. Thereafter the European Commission presented a comprehensive "European Migration Agenda". Since then thousands of refugees have been rescued at sea. The EU has tripled the funding available for maritime search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean. Two German naval vessels are involved, and have saved several thousand people from acute distress at sea in the last few weeks.

Saturday critical for Greece

The deliberations also looked at the Greek debt crisis. On the second day of the meeting the Chancellor once again met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. With French President François Hollande, she reported, she had urged Alexis Tsipras "to accept the exceptionally generous offer made by the three institutions, to achieve a good solution for Greece". The meeting of the Eurogroup on Saturday will be "decisive", said Angela Merkel.

The heads of state and government, she said, had affirmed their political will, "for the Eurogroup finance ministers to find a solution with the three institutions and Greece". This was stipulated very clearly, reported the Chancellor after the first day of the meeting.

The heads of state and government of the 28 EU member states met for their regular European Council meeting on 25 and 26 June 2015 in Brussels. Migration and Greece were the two main points on the agenda, but the meeting also looked at security policy, the development of the economic and monetary union, TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) negotiations, and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). The digital agenda and the 2015 European Semester were discussed.

United Kingdom – referendum presented

On the first day of the meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron presented his plans for an in/out referendum on EU membership in the United Kingdom. The referendum is to be held no later than 2017. In the run-up to the vote, the UK hopes to negotiate a better deal for the country. In December the European Council will look at the substance of the British reform proposals.

The Chancellor stressed that the process will be approached constructively and that there was a high level of interest in keeping the UK in the European Union, as it is an important member.

Greater security in Europe

On the second day of the meeting the European Council dealt with issues relating to security and defence policy. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was invited to attend, a clear sign "that we see NATO and European Union security and defence policy as being closely coordinated", as Angela Merkel stressed. The EU works consciously to supplement NATO’s work, she said.

The groups of heads of state and government agreed that the EU will produce a new foreign and security policy strategy by June 2016. Chancellor Angela Merkel, commented, "We are fully aware that this strategy must provide convincing answers to the radical changes in the security situation". The EU’s current security strategy dates back to 2003.

In the wake of the attack near Lyon

In the press conference on Friday afternoon, Angela Merkel also spoke of the attack on a gas factory near Lyon and expressed her sympathy for the victims. The attack once again made it clear to the European Council what a challenge it is to combat terrorism.

With a view to Islamist terrorism in particular it is "very, very important for us to be able to defend our security". In connection with migration policy too, it must be ensured that Islamist fighters are not able to force their way into the European Union. That is why "registration and compliance with refugee reception standards are vitally important," said Angela Merkel.

The heads of state and government conferred on Jacques Delors the title of "Honorary Citizen of Europe" in recognition of his services to European integration. The Frenchman, Jacques Delors, was President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995. Under his leadership European integration made major progress. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty transformed the European Economic Community into the European Union, which is based on the European Communities, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and police and judicial cooperation. Also, 500 million Europeans became citizens of the European Union, the role of the European Parliament was strengthened and an Economic and Monetary Union was introduced.