European Parliament Press Kit for the European Council of 26 and 27 October 2023

In this press kit, you will find a selection of the European Parliament’s press releases reflecting MEPs’ priorities for topics on the summit agenda.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola will represent the European Parliament at the summit, address the heads of state or government at 15.00, and hold a press conference after her speech.

When: Press conference at around 16.00 on 26 October

Where: European Council press room and via Parliament’s webstreaming or EbS+.

At their meeting in Brussels, heads of state or government are set to focus on Hamas’ attacks on Israel and the situation in Gaza, on the latest developments in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the EU’s continued support for the country and on the revision of the EU’s 2024-2027 long-term budget. They will also discuss external relations, the economic situation in the EU as well as migration and in particular negotiations between Council and Parliament on the reform of the EU’s asylum and migration system.

Hamas attack on Israel

In a resolution adopted on 19 October, MEPs strongly condemned the brutal attacks, expressed their support to Israel and its people and underlined the need to “eliminate the terrorist organisation Hamas”. They also called for the immediate release of all hostages kidnapped by Hamas and recognised Israel’s right to self-defence “as enshrined in and constrained by international law”. Any actions by Israel must strictly comply with international humanitarian law, the text states.

Parliament also stressed that both the attacks by Hamas and the Israeli response risk reinforcing a cycle of violence in the region. MEPs called for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting and stressed that attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure, including UN workers, medical workers and journalists, is a serious violation of international law.

MEPs urged the European Commission to thoroughly review all EU financial assistance to Palestine and the region to ensure no EU funds directly or indirectly finance terrorism. At the same time, they underlined that the EU budget must continue to provide support to building peace and stability in the area.

In the resolution, Parliament reiterated its call to include the entirety of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Lebanese Hezbollah on the EU list of terrorist groups and demanded investigations into the role of Iran and countries such as Qatar and Russia in financing and supporting terrorism in the region.

Addressing the European Council on 17 October, EP President Roberta Metsola said that “on October 7, the world awoke to the worst terrorist attack on families in Israel in generations. Hamas committed mass murder, kidnappings, rapes, torture, mutilations and the desecration of the dead. There can be no excuses for that.”

As a Union, she continued, it is important “that we express our solidarity, that we reiterate our rejection of terrorism, that we help in securing the release of nearly 200 hostages and that we underline that how Israel responds to the attack matters to all of us. We must emphasise that we need to keep looking for solutions that mitigate the humanitarian consequences in Gaza in line with our obligations and international law.”

Even in the most difficult times, President Metsola stated, “the European Parliament has always and will always push for a fair two-state solution that is equitable and that is just. We cannot lose sight of that. We will always push for a sustainable and lasting peace. Sadly, the reality is that the vile actions of Hamas terrorists have pushed this prospect further away.”

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine

On 17 October, Parliament voted on a new Ukraine Facility with an overall capacity of €50 billion for 2024-2027 to support the country’s recovery, reconstruction and modernisation.

One of the key demands of MEPs is that assets from the Russian Federation or other entities or individuals directly connected with Russia’s war of aggression be used to in Ukraine’s reconstruction. With their amendments, MEPs also made the Facility more democratically accountable, encouraging multiparty democracy and Ukraine’s alignment with EU accession requirements.

The Ukraine Facility is part of the ongoing revision of the EU’s long-term budget, for which adjustments are needed, as it has been severely depleted following the multiple crises since 2021. MEPs insist that the Facility, along with the entire budgetary revision, should be agreed as soon as possible, as otherwise there will be no provisions for assistance to Ukraine from 2024. The package should also be integrated into 2024’s annual budget, to be negotiated in November.

Revision of the EU’s long-term budget

On 3 October, MEPs set out their position on the reform of the EU’s long-term budget, emphasizing the urgency of future-proofing the EU budget. Following the Commission’s proposal for a mid-term revision on the EU’s long-term budget, MEPs in plenary endorsed an extra €10 billion for the years 2024-2027, in addition to the €65.8 billion proposed by the Commission.

In light of recent external challenges, especially the Russian war against Ukraine and growing migration issues, MEPs bolstered the relevant budgetary areas by €2 billion. They have allocated an additional €3 billion towards the new “Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform” (STEP) and earmarked €5 billion to enhance the EU’s ability to respond to unforeseen crises.

As for debt payments resulting from the EU’s Recovery plan, MEPs demand that they be positioned above the EU’s budgetary caps to ensure EU programmes directly benefiting citizens are not compromised, especially given the potential volatility of these costs with rising interest rates.

MEPs stress that a swift adoption of the amended regulation is key, as the revised MFF should be operational by 1 January 2024 to offer a framework for that year’s annual budget.

Migration and asylum

On 4 October, Parliament announced the resumption of negotiations on Eurodac and Screening Regulations, after the agreement in the Council on the Crisis Regulation proposal.

MEPs decided on 20 September 2023 to pause negotiations on Eurodac and Screening Regulations in the absence of a Council mandate on the Crisis Regulation. Following the agreement among member states, both institutions are engaged in negotiations on all legislative proposals of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

As agreed in the joint roadmap in September 2022, the adoption of a new legislative framework for migration and asylum represent a top priority in the work of the European Parliament with a view to adopting the legislative proposals before the June 2024 European elections.

External relations

In a resolution adopted on 5 October 2023, Parliament strongly condemned Azerbaijan’s pre-planned and unjustified military attack against Nagorno-Karabakh on 19 September, which MEPs say constituted a gross violation of international law and human rights and a clear infringement of previous attempts to achieve a ceasefire. With over 100,000 ethnic Armenians having been forced to flee the enclave since the latest offensive, MEPs say the current situation amounts to ethnic cleansing and strongly condemn threats and violence committed by Azerbaijani troops against the Armenian inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Parliament calls on the EU to undertake a comprehensive review of its relations with Baku. To develop a strategic partnership with a country like Azerbaijan, which blatantly violates international law and international commitments, and has an alarming human rights record, is incompatible with the objectives of EU foreign policy. MEPs urge the EU to suspend any negotiations on a renewed partnership with Baku, and should the situation not improve, consider suspending the application of the EU visa facilitation agreement with Azerbaijan.

In a resolution adopted on 19 October, MEPs say the Serbian government is pursuing a very dangerous policy with regard to Kosovo and its Western partners. They condemn in the strongest possible terms “the hideous and cowardly terrorist attack on Kosovan police officers by well-organised Serbian paramilitaries” in Banjska/Banjskë on 24 September 2023, and urge all sides to de-escalate the situation in northern Kosovo.

Aggressive military behaviour, together with radicalised political messaging in Serbia and strong indications of the Serbian state’s involvement in the recent political violence in the north of Kosovo, indicates that the Serbian government is pursuing a very dangerous but coherent policy with regard to Kosovo and its Western partners.) MEPs are also concerned by evidence linking violent criminal groups in the north of Kosovo and in Serbia with the Serbian state.

Parliament calls on Serbia and Kosovo to denounce all forms of violence and acts of provocation, urging them to halt any actions that may further escalate tensions and to actively work towards peaceful dispute resolution through EU-facilitated dialogue.

Economy and competitiveness

On 17 October 2023, Parliament adopted its position on the “Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform” (STEP) to boost digital, net-zero and biotechnologies investment and enable the EU’s industry to achieve the digital and net-zero transitions.

STEP aims to strengthen various EU programmes and funds and to channel up to €160 billion into new investments, alongside cohesion policy incentives and the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The platform will foster the growth of crucial technological value chains in the digital economy, net-zero industries, and biotechnologies, as well as addressing labour and skill shortages, and supporting innovation. In their amendments, MEPs push for an extra €3 billion on top of the Commission’s proposed €10 billion, bringing the STEP budget up to €13 billion in new funding.

On 25 October, the Industry Committee voted on legislation to bolster Europe’s manufacturing output of decarbonisation technologies. The “Net-Zero industry act” sets a target for Europe to produce 40% of net-zero technologies based on National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) and to capture 25% of the global market value for these technologies. It also intends to deal with the challenges in scaling up manufacturing capacities in these technologies.

In their amendments, MEPs broadened the scope of the draft legislation to encompass the entire supply chain, including components, materials, and machinery for producing net-zero technologies. They propose a wider, more comprehensive list of technologies to be covered, to be updated periodically. Notably, MEPs included nuclear fission and fusion technologies, sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), and specific industrial technologies.

MEPs also propose the creation of “Net-Zero Industry Valleys” initiatives, speeding up the permitting process by delegating parts of the environmental assessment evidence collection to member states.

On 25 September, MEPs in the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee quizzed European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde and focused their questions largely on inflation and interest rate hikes.

Ms Lagarde faced repeated questioning, primarily from MEPs on the left of the political spectrum, about the European Central Bank’s (ECB) interest rate hikes. They argued that current inflation was supply based and therefore should not be tackled by raising interest rates. Interest rate hikes, these MEPs argued, were harming working families and economic growth without good reason. Acknowledging that a component of inflation was supply based, Ms Lagarde defended the ECB’s high interest rates policy arguing that it was necessary to stay the course and that there was currently no discussion in the ECB about reducing rates. It was important to anchor investment expectations to bring back investor confidence, she said.

MEPs also asked questions about the review of the EU’s economic governance rules, on which work between the co-legislators should begin soon. Ms Lagarde said that she hoped that a deal on the new rules would be reached by the end of the year.