Crisis Response

European Council Conclusions on Migration and External Relations

26/10/2016 - 23:50
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On 20 and 21 October EU Leaders met in Brussels to discuss a number of issues facing the European Union. The first day of the Council meeting was focused on the EU’s response to the migration crisis and the EU’s relationship with Russia, particularly in light of the Russian military intervention in Syria. The second day of talks focused on trade issues and external relations.

In regard to migration, EU leaders established that illegal migration along the Central Mediterranean route needed to be further reduced and return rates improved. Similarly, it was concluded that further support needed to be offered to Greece and accelerate returns from the Greek islands to Turkey, in line with the EU-Turkey statement ,  in particular by enhancing the efficiency and speed of asylum procedures.

While welcoming the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation adopted on 6 October, the European Council called for a swift adoption of the revised Schengen Borders Code enforcing systematic controls on all travellers crossing EU external borders and called on the Council to establish its position on an entry/exit system before the end of 2016.

Finally, it was suggested that the EU remain vigilant about other routes and be prepared to rapidly react to new developments.

The European Council also assessed the state of play of on-going FTA negotiations with key partners. As well as reiterating support for the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), EU leaders invited the Commission to actively pursue negotiations on a FTA with Japan in order to reach an agreement by the end of the year and to continue negotiations with the US to achieve a comprehensive FTA.

In relation to the situation in Syria, the European Council strongly condemned the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo. It was stressed that those responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law must be held accountable. The Council also called for urgent and unhindered humanitarian access to Aleppo and other parts of the country and for an immediate cessation of hostilities and resumption of a political process under the auspices of the UN.