Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the European Council meetings on 14 and 15 December 2017

Yesterday’s discussion on migration confirmed the hierarchy of our aims, where protecting our territory, protecting our external borders as well as stemming illegal migration come first. For me, the answers to two questions, which I asked the leaders, were key. Firstly, on the need for a financial instrument dedicated to stemming illegal migration, in the next Multiannual Financial Framework. Here the answer was univocally positive. And in February, we will discuss how to make it a key priority in the MFF. My second question was about reforming the Dublin Regulation, including the issue of mandatory quotas. Again, I received a positive answer as to the readiness to work in consensus. Mandatory quotas remain a contentious issue, although its temperature has decreased significantly. If only for this reason, it was worth raising this topic. Will a compromise be possible? It appears very hard. But we have to try our very best. We will assess progress in this respect in March, while the leaders want to make decisions in June.

As you remember, my assessment of mandatory quotas is something that created much emotion. Yesterday we heard opinions about their effectiveness – or the lack of effectiveness. There was appreciation for the efforts of the countries that have accepted refugees. At the same time, there was agreement that relocation is not a solution to the issue of illegal migration. Two statistics, both of them true, provide a good illustration of this part of the discussion. The first says that out of all the migrants eligible for the relocation, 93 per cent have been distributed among EU member states. The second statistic, which I put forward, says that even if one hundred per cent of them were relocated, that would still be less than 2 per cent of the total number of people who applied for asylum in the EU. The dispute around mandatory quotas is not over yet, but I hope that with yesterday’s debate, we have managed to clear the air. Now we need to work hard to find a compromise by June.

This morning we discussed Euro area reform. The summit participants agreed with my proposal that in the next 6 months, the work of our finance ministers should concentrate on areas where the convergence of views is the greatest. Progressing step-by-step on issues such as the completion of the Banking Union, and the transformation of the ESM into the so-called European Monetary Fund, should significantly strengthen the resilience of the EMU. Discussions will continue also on other ideas, which need more time to mature, and have a longer term perspective. I will call the next Euro summit already in March to continue this discussion. And June could be the moment for us to take the first decisions.

Finally, on Brexit. Opening the second phase of our negotiations wouldn’t be possible without the unity of the EU27, the hard work of Michel Barnier and the constructive effort of Prime Minister May. As for the framework for future relations, it is now time for internal EU27 preparations and exploratory contacts with the UK, to get more clarity on their vision. On that basis we should adopt guidelines and start negotiations next year. I trust that the unity on the EU side will continue. How important this unity is, I have seen on many occasions, for example in the context of the European Investment Bank, where the EU is committed to preserving the financing activity of the EIB Group and its business model throughout and after Brexit. I hope this positive attitude will also be reflected in other fields.

Last but not least, I want to thank the Estonian Presidency, Prime Minister Ratas and his excellent team for their great work. Personally, my best memories are of the Digital Summit in Tallinn, which not only demonstrated Estonian leadership in this field, but also helped move Europe forward. Thank you Jüri for your effectiveness and hospitality.