The President of the European Council met with Bill English, the new Prime Minister of New Zealand, for the first time in Brussels. They reviewed the bilateral relations between the EU and New Zealand and agreed to strengthen them even further.
President Tusk stated that both countries should sign a free trade agreement and said he hoped that the negotiations could be launched as early as this year. "Such an agreement would not only boost sustainable economic growth, investment and job creation on both sides. It would also send a strong political signal of economic openness and trade at a time where protectionist pressures are on the rise," he said after the meeting.
The leaders also discussed the migration and refugee crisis, including the humanitarian aid, resettlement and other support provided by New Zealand. "I know your personal sensitivity to this issue and thank you for your personal role in this dramatically difficult time for so many people around the world," said Tusk.
They also stressed the need for a political solution to end the conflict in Syria and reiterated the call on all sides to respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Speaking about security issues, where New Zealand is an important partner for the EU, President Tusk welcomed the country's participation in Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations, and briefed Prime Minister English on the December European Council's decisions in this field.