MEPs debate EU summit topics: migration, security and UK membership

EU leaders meeting on 17 and18 December should support the creation of European border and coast guard and cooperate more closely over counter-terrorism, said MEPs in Wednesday’s debate with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Nicolas Schmit for the Council Presidency. Some MEPs stressed the need to see what could be done to keep the UK in the EU.

“The first priority for all of us is to implement what has been decided” on tackling the migration crisis and also to step up cooperation on the fight against terrorism, said Nicolas Schmit, Luxembourg’s labour minister representing the Council Presidency. “The December European Council will not take a decision on issues relating to the UK referendum,” he added.

“Schengen is here to stay,” announced Jean-Claude Juncker. He said that a European border and coast guard system would strengthen the only European border the EU should have, protecting the EU with mandatory checks on everyone leaving and entering the EU. “I will call on the European Council to respond positively to our proposal,” he said.

EPP group leader Manfred Weber (DE) said he would support all new initiatives the Commission tabled, such as the one on the EU’s external border management. “We should stop talking about ‘crisis’ summits,” he said. “We have achieved a lot: a PNR agreement, a Europol mandate, Greece is still part of the Eurozone, we are supporting Ukraine despite pressure from Russia and we now have climate and data protection deals.”

S&D chairman Gianni Pittella (IT) also hailed a “good” proposal on the EU’s external border management. “But we also need binding, new mechanisms for greater resettlement of asylum seekers,” he said. He also promised that his group would “do all it can” to keep the UK in the EU.

“Far too many people offer simplistic responses – sometimes only the extremist voices are heard … We need to be very careful about how and what we agree now,” said the ECR Group leader, Syed Kamall (UK), referring to current crises such as terrorism and migration.

For the ALDE Group, Guy Verhofstadt (BE) urged heads of state or government to decide on – not just “to examine” – the Commission’s proposal for a European border and coast guard. “On Brexit, my appeal is to look at Cameron’s requests in a constructive way – an opportunity to reform Europe,” he said.

The GUE/NGL Group leader, Gabriele Zimmer (DE), called on member states to fulfil their promises made at recent Council to take in asylum seekers. She blamed EU leaders of their “dishonest” attitude vis-á-vis Turkey, echoed by Philippe Lamberts (Greens/EFA, BE). He called on the Commission to “review” its draft proposal on border protection and also to create a “legal way” for asylum seekers to seek EU protection.

Nigel Farage (EFDD, UK) said that leaving the EU was the only way “to get back national self-confidence” and Edouard Ferrand (ENF, FR) pleaded for individual policies adapted to each member state. “An EU of nations is the only solution,” he said.

President Martin Schulz of the European Parliament will address the European Council at 16.00 on Thursday.