At the European Council meeting on 19-20 October 2017, President Donald Tusk presented the Leaders’ Agenda, an overview of the main issues he intends to put on the agenda between now and June 2019. The agenda includes a number of ongoing work strands, as well as issues that require discussions “aimed at resolving deadlocks or finding solutions to key political dossiers.” The agenda is designed to be a “living document”, which will be updated as required. Some will be discussed in formal European Council meetings, while others will be addressed in an informal format, at 27 or 28 Member States, depending on the substance.
President Tusk accompanied the text of the Leaders’ Agenda with a detailed document – ‘Implementing the Bratislava Roadmap’ – which set out the tasks that have been completed since the adoption of the Roadmap in September 2016, and those which are on track for completion. The document notes that “some tasks have progressed slower than expected and a few require a fresh push, including at the highest level.” A clear example is with regard to the future of the asylum system in Europe, where work on the application of principles of responsibility and solidarity are still ongoing.
The President wrote: “In Bratislava and Rome, Leaders re-stated their commitment to the European project and decided to build their future together within a strengthened European Union. They underlined their unity and their willingness to take the fate of the Union in their own hands, working together in the European Council. Since then, optimism has been on the rise, and ambition has returned. Against this background, we should further step up our efforts and re-energise our work, and, to this effect, set out clearly what we intend to deliver.”
The agenda includes ongoing work strands, as well as issues that require discussions aimed at resolving deadlocks or finding solutions to key political dossiers, which will be prepared with “decision notes” setting out in clear terms the political problems to be solved. Between now and the end of March 2019 there will also have to be regular meetings of the European Council in the Article 50 format (EU27) to deal with the Brexit issue. As noted, this Leaders’ Agenda is intended as a living document that will be updated and amended as required.
- In November 2017, in addition to the Gothenburg Social Summit, attention will be given to aspects of Education and Culture on the 30th anniversary of the flagship Erasmus Programme.
- December 2017 will see the launch of the Defence Initiative PESCO while the Council will also address a range of social, cultural and educational issues as follow up to the Gothenburg Social Summit. The session will also discuss the external and internal dimensions of Migration. An informal Euro Summit, of the 19 Eurozone Member States will discuss Banking Union.
- On 23 February 2018 an Informal meeting of the Council will discuss key institutional issues such as the future composition of the European Parliament and issues including possible transnational lists and Spitzenkandidaten. An initial discussion will take place on the political priorities for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
- The formal meeting on 22-23 March 2018 will give attention to strategies for the Single Market and Trade and to policy orientation on Climate and Energy. Decisions will be sought on Digital issues, such as e-commerce, copyright, taxation, and on Research and Innovation in the context of global competitiveness.
- On 17 May 2018 the EU-Western Balkans Summit will convene in Sofia.
- The June 2018 session of the European Council will decide on the composition of the European Parliament and on the orientation for further work on Defence. Decisions will also be made on reforms in Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Further discussion of the internal and external aspects of Migration will take place.
- In September 2018 an Informal Meeting will take place in Vienna to tackle an extensive range of Internal Security issues. On 18-19 October 2018 the Council will follow up the Internal Security discussions and will continue work on Migration and Trade.
- The December 2018 session of the Council will be devoted to progress on the MFF and to key questions on the future of the Single Market.
- The final meetings of the period – in March, May and June 2019 – will concentrate on economic and trade issues and on the MFF. Efforts will be made to achieve agreement on the new MFF. And, the Council will prepare its Strategic Agenda for 2019-2024.
President Tusk’s Explanatory Remarks
President Tusk wrote to the members of the European Council on 17 October 2017, prior to their meeting on 19-20 October, setting out his proposals for the Leaders’ Agenda, under three guiding principles:
Based on my consultations, it is clear that, while delivering on what we agreed in Bratislava and Rome, there is also a willingness to reinvigorate and enrich our work, including by drawing on new ideas. In doing so, I would like us to be guided by three principles.
Firstly, we should focus on practical solutions to EU citizens’ real problems. This means changes – not just for the sake of change, but in order to bring back a sense of stability, security and predictability in people’s lives as well as faith in the future. Institutional innovation can in some cases be a means to an end, but we should be careful not to get bogged down in unnecessary institutional or theoretical debates.
Secondly, we should proceed step by step. Some matters are ripe for decisions now, and should therefore be dealt with straightaway, with speed, ambition and determination, so as to ensure real progress. Other matters will need to be further prepared, before we can debate them.
Thirdly, we should preserve the unity that we have managed to develop over the past year. We need this unity in order to solve the migration crisis, to tackle unfair aspects of globalisation, to deal with aggressive third countries, to limit the damage caused by Brexit as well as to preserve the rules-based international order in these difficult times. We can only confront today’s uncertainties if we act in unison, since individual countries are too small to cope with them on their own. Some might say that I am obsessed with unity, but I am deeply convinced – not only because of my job, but above all due to my personal experience – that European unity is our greatest strength.
Therefore, the overall framework for our decisions should continue to be in meetings with 27 or 28 Member States, depending on the subject. As we set out in the Rome Declaration, this approach does not prevent Member States moving forward more rapidly in specific areas, in accordance with the Treaties, while keeping the door open for those who want to join later. To be clear, unity cannot become an excuse for stagnation, but at the same time ambition cannot lead to divisions.
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