At a joint final press conference, Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron pointed to the intensive Franco-German cooperation, which was also a factor in the success of the summit. The Chancellor said this meeting had radiated a "spirit of new confidence".
It clearly emerged once again that shaping the future EU of 27 takes precedence over Brexit negotiations. The EU-27 must focus strongly on their own future, declared the Chancellor. This summit thus concentrated on "further consolidating the foundations and the future of the European Union".
The terrorist threat that we have seen in the last few months affects all European states, because terrorism operates internationally. That makes it essential for EU states to cooperate more closely on counter-terrorism.
One such measure is to better monitor those entering and leaving the Schengen Area. The Justice and Home Affairs Council has already agreed on an entry/exit information exchange system to this end. This is now to be swiftly implemented. "If we want freedom of movement within the Schengen Area we must also be able together to monitor entry and exit," declared the Chancellor at her evening press conference after the first day of the summit.
The heads of state and government also agreed to take a stronger line on fighting online extremism. IS propaganda is very rapidly noted by users. That is why it is exceptionally important to identify material of this sort and delete it as swiftly as possible, continued the Chancellor. Information about terrorist fighters is also to be more effectively shared by EU member states.
The EU must shoulder greater responsibility for its own security and defence. At the Bratislava summit in September and the summit in December 2016 the 27 EU leaders resolved to cooperate more closely in the field of defence. At the start of June 2017 the European Commission presented a reflection paper on the future of European defence policy.
The heads of state and government agreed to step up European cooperation in the field of defence policy. This is explicitly not seen in any way as directed against NATO.
Specifically, the EU intends to make use of the option laid out in Article 42 of the EU Treaty for "permanent structured cooperation". The heads of state and government want specific projects, as well as criteria and conditions, to be elaborated within the next three months.
Permanent structured cooperation, said the Chancellor, offers a genuine advantage. It allows the EU to conduct missions, in Africa for instance, which are not only military in nature, but which can integrate political options to resolve the situation and development cooperation. This is "an initiative for stronger cooperation which is open to all, although not all member states are required to participate".
Summit participants also welcomed the proposal of the European Commission regarding a European Defence Fund, which is now to be established and developed.
The Paris Agreement on climate change came into effect on 4 November 2016, and provides the first ever mandatory international framework for a global energy shift. On 1 July 2017, American President Donald Trump announced that the USA would withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
Against this background and with a view to the G20 summit in Hamburg at the start of July, the EU leaders strongly reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement. It remains the cornerstone of global efforts to address climate change, they said. The EU is to expand its cooperation, especially with the most vulnerable countries.
The Chancellor stressed that the EU will be forced by the Paris Agreement to forge ahead with innovative technologies, which in turn will be beneficial for the EU’s economic development.
In the field of trade policy the European Council affirmed its commitment to an open, rules-based trading system. At this time, when protectionism is very much on the agenda again, this is a very important commitment, said the Chancellor.
With respect to migration, the focus was on stemming irregular migration across the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, as well as reforming the Common European Asylum System and cooperating with the countries of origin of migrants and the transit states they use.
Looking to the Brexit negotiations British Prime Minister Theresa May promised far-reaching residence rights for EU citizens in the United Kingdom. EU citizens who have already been resident in the UK for five years will, she said, be able to retain all rights.
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