20th December 2015

European Council of 17 and 18 December 2015

EU Heads of State and Government met at an EU summit on Thursday and Friday 17-18 December 2015. Although pressing issues were on the agenda – from the migration crisis, through economic and monetary union, to UK´s proposals for an EU reform, not much was actually achieved. Regarding migration and fight against terrorism, the conclusions talk mainly of continuing the efforts already started in the past months, continue the implementation of agreed measures and assess the newest proposals, such as the European Border and Coast Guard. The leaders set a deadline for reaching a deal on a common border control agency – June 2016.

Concerning economic and monetary union, heated discussions were reported regarding the system of common deposit insurance for the eurozone – a measure that Germany refuses. However, no specific breakthrough was achieved.

Concerning the internal market, the European Council reiterated that the Digital Single Market and Capital Markets Union strategies need to be implemented, as well as the completion of the single market in services. TTIP negotiations are also mentioned, the European Council stressing support to quick conclusion of negotiations.

With regard to energy and climate issues, the leaders welcomed the relatively ambitious Paris deal. It also urged the implementation of the Energy Union. A very heated discussion was reported here between Italy and Germany on the Nord Stream II proposal. This Russian-German project continues despite EU sanctions against Russia. Furthermore, many EU countries feel that this project does not help in any way in diversifying EU´s energy sources or routes – the first pipeline of the Nord Stream project is functional and its capacity is not even met in full. Nord Stream II is widely perceived as a Russian political project aimed at bypassing Ukraine, Belarus and several EU transit countries regarding flows of natural gas.

Concerning the UK´s proposals for reform, the European Council decided to push the discussions further until its February meeting. Donald Tusk, European Council President, and David Cameron, UK´s Prime Minister, noted that progress has been made, with 3 out of 4 UK´s proposals receiving broad support. The controversial point remains the stemming of intra-EU migration into the UK and limitation to welfare benefits for intra-EU migrants in the UK. Some technical measure could nevertheless be found to reach a compromise, but non-discrimination based on country of origin remains a non-negotiable principle.

The leaders also touched upon external issues – mainly Syria and Libya. For more, read the conclusions of the meeting here, or POLITICO´s assessment of the summit here.

Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic