Report by President Donald Tusk to the European Parliament

Leaders met last Thursday for the March European Council, and – a day later – at 27 to discuss the future of the European Union before the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Our discussions were constructive and focused, despite a little drama at the beginning.

I will start with the European Council meeting itself. Following an implementation report from Prime Minister Muscat, we discussed the progress on our migration priorities as set down by leaders in the Malta Declaration of the 3rd of February. Work has begun but now needs to accelerate in order to start delivering results ahead of what we know will be a challenging summer.

Secondly, leaders discussed the prospects for the EU and euro area economies, together with the President of the European Central Bank. Things are getting better, and they are getting better in every Member State of the Union. This proves that our economic strategies are on the right track. Although unemployment is at its lowest level since 2009, leaders were clear on the need to get it down further, particularly in the most affected regions. Job creation will remain our priority. It is the best means to tackle inequality and social injustice.

Leaders confirmed the EU’s position as the champion of open, rules-based free and fair trade. Trade is central to European economic success and as I mentioned several weeks ago, Europe needs to intensify trade talks with our partners around the world. Not least due to signs of protectionism emerging elsewhere. We agreed to swiftly advance ongoing negotiations, such as with Japan, which are most advanced, with Mercosur and Mexico. Already next week we will discuss with President Juncker how to progress in our trade deal with Japan when we host Prime Minister Abe in Brussels. Our sincere hope is to finalise these talks this year. Leaders expressed their will to strengthen trade relations with China. At the same time we will not hesitate to defend ourselves against unfair trading practices, wherever necessary. We welcome the European Parliament’s strong commitment to making quick progress on the relevant legislation. It will help Europe set the global standard for free and fair trade.

In the evening, we discussed the tense situation in the Western Balkans. It was clear to all that forces inside and outside are working vigorously to destabilise the region. That is why leaders reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the Western Balkans, and its European perspective. We also expressed our full commitment to support EU-oriented reforms and ongoing projects. The European Union remains faithful to the promise of Thessaloniki and fully committed to the region’s stability and prosperity. I hope this positive signal from Europe will be heard.

Leaders also reviewed progress made in the area of security and defence cooperation, where the European Council gave a new impetus last December as a strategic priority. Leaders agreed to come back to this again in June.

On Friday, we met informally at 27 ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. There was an honest and constructive discussion about our common future. It focused on what should be the main elements of the Rome Declaration and our agenda going forward.

It was clear from the debate that the unity of the 27 will be our most precious asset. Our last meeting in Malta, subsequent opinions voiced by some Member States as well as the European Commission’s White Paper leave us in no doubt that the idea of a multi-speed Europe will be one of the discussions ahead of the Rome anniversary. I understand the reasons for this.

You can read the full statement here