Press Releases European Council 22-23 March 2018 – main points

European Council 22-23 March 2018 – main points

A few hours ago, we finished an intensive series of summits, in which the EU leaders addressed several of the big European, global issues and once again demonstrated their unity. The main issues which caught great media attention were trade, Russia, Brexit and to some extent Turkey. I will not go into any detail on these issues, and encourage you to familiarise yourself with the outcome documents, press statements etc. You will find all the links below. So just a few remarks.

On the Salisbury attack, leaders expressed their solidarity with the UK. A key phrase in the conclusions is that the European Council “agrees with the United Kingdom government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation.” Moreover, the leaders agreed that the EU Ambassador to Russia should be recalled for consultations (see the EEAS press release). The firm expectation is also that a number of Member States will follow up with national actions as of Monday.

Unity was also displayed again in the Brexit debate where the EU27 adopted guidelines for the future EU-UK relationship and took good note of the progress made on the Withdrawal Agreement, including the part on transition. This is important in terms of predictability for citizens and companies for the period of the transition. Still, this is only an agreement in principle as nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Likewise, there can be no backsliding on mutual commitments such as on the issues of citizens and Northern Ireland.

On trade, the discussions were in the end held in two parts. Thursday evening the leaders had a short debate where they, having noted their convergence of views, agreed that it would be better to come back to the issue in the morning, once the official US decision of an EU exemption from the tariffs had been confirmed. So, this  morning the 28 leaders started by adopting the conclusions on trade, regretting the decision by the US and calling for the EU exemption to be permanent.

Finally, on Turkey, there was agreement to go ahead with the EU-Turkey meeting in Varna, Bulgaria, on Monday 26 March with a balanced set of messages including the need to cooperate on areas such as migration and counter-terrorism (i.e. foreign fighters), but also to clearly express the EU’s views when it comes to Cyprus and Greece in regard to Turkey’s illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea (reflected in the conclusions) but also in others areas like Syria and developments in Turkey.

Head of Unit

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