European Council Briefing Note 2017/9

December 2017: migration policy, the euro and Brexit 

Three features of the meeting are highlighted for special mention in the conclusions at the end of the paper:

  • Its confident tone. Parts of the meeting were celebratory, but the substantive debate too reflected the fact that over the past eighteen months EU27 have developed a coherent strategy and a clear institutional hierarchy.
  • The primacy of the European Council as an institution, not only over the other institutions, but also over the individuals of whom it is composed. Personalities matter and there were some big personalities at the December meeting. But office and institutional hierarchy matter even more. As Macron himself observed in the session on Brexit, the British problem had been dealt with effectively ‘because we are in charge’. Not ‘I’, not Barnier and certainly not Juncker, but ‘we, the European Council whose overriding collective authority has not been questioned by any of the formidable personalities involved at any time during the making of EU27.
  • The importance and effectiveness of the Leaders’ Agenda. Migration policy and the future of the euro were the first major test of the Leaders’ Agenda as an instrument of collective government and both it and the Presidency emerged well from the process.
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Pre-summit Briefing 2017/8

14-15 December: Donald Tusk throws down the gauntlet

There will be no less than three summits on Thursday and Friday:

  • an ordinary meeting of the European Council, at which, after discussions with Antonio Tajani and then with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, the heads of state and government will review draft Conclusions on Security and Defence and the Social Dimension, Education and Culture, before engaging in an open-ended Leaders’ Agenda debate about Migration Policy over dinner, capped in all probability by post-prandial discussions about the implementation of the Minsk agreements, tax evasion and the Jerusalem Question.
  • a Euro Summit, which will be attended by everybody except Mrs May, and which will discuss a Leaders Agenda Note on Economic and Monetary Union
  • an Article 50 meeting, at which EU27 will discuss the next phase of the Brexit negotiations and sign off on a fresh set of guidelines covering the transition period. Guidelines on the framework of the future relationship will be adopted in March 2018.
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European Council Briefing Note 2017/8

November 2017: a trial run for the Leaders’ Agenda 

This is a very short note indeed, which will be best read as a postscript to the longish note on the October European Council, which is being circulated at the same time. The October Council adopted the Leaders’ Agenda. The November meeting gave it its first trial run.

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European Council Briefing Note 2017/7

October 2017: the Leaders’ Agenda

The European Council on 19-20 October had a crowded agenda. One item, the Leaders’ Agenda was more important than any of the others however. It remains to be seen how effectively Tusk and his colleagues use the Agenda between now and mid-2019, but in principle at least this innovation appears likely to be comparable in importance to the transformation of the status of the Conclusions which occurred in the early 1980s and which subsequently prompted Jacques Delors to place the latter on a par with articles of the Treaties.

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Pre-summit Briefing 2017/7

17 November: Education and Culture 

Donald Tusk will preside over a special meeting of the European Council in Göteborg on 17 November. Angela Merkel will not be there and president Anastasiades of Cyprus and Juha Sipilä, the Finish prime minister may not be either. Everybody else, including Theresa May, should be present however because they had been planning to come to Göteborg anyway for a Social Summit organised jointly by the Swedish government and the European Commission. The two events are quite distinct, but when a number of heads of state and government pressed during the working dinner at Tallinn at the end of September for more frequent European Council meetings, an extra event in Göteborg on the same day as the Social Summit provided a quick and easy solution.

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Pre-summit Briefing 2017/6

19/20 October: The Leaders’ Agenda, Brexit and Other Issues

The October European Council seems certain to be one of its more important meetings. This is not because the ordinary business is extraordinary: migration policy, the digital market, security and defence, EU-Turkish relations, Korea, Iran and Trade Policy are, and will doubtless remain, parts of the European Council’s staple diet. Nor is it because EU27 will conclude that the Brexit negotiations have not yet made sufficient progress to justify beginning Phase 2. Given that EU27 have been obliged to negotiate with a leaderless government, important representatives of which would still apparently prefer no deal at all, the EU’s decision to defer the launch of Phase 2 until December at the earliest has been a foregone conclusion for many weeks.

 

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European Council Briefing Note 2017/6

September 2017: Tallinn and the Leaders’ Agenda 

The working dinner which Donald Tusk presided over in Tallinn on 28 September was unscheduled, informal and conclusion-less.  This note is therefore unusually short. The meeting was not unimportant however. A brief account is therefore appropriate, not just for the sake of completeness, but also because both the debate and Tusk’s very brief comments on it afterwards clarified several aspects of EU27’s ongoing and increasingly lively debate about the Union’s future.

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Pre-summit Briefing 2017/5

28 September: Tallinn and the future of Europe

The working dinner in Tallinn on the evening of 28 September was not on the European Council’s schedule for 2017. On the contrary, it was first confirmed in Donald Tusk’s letter to his colleagues on 21 September. It makes a lot of sense however. Firstly, because everybody will be in Tallinn anyway in connection with the Digital Summit organised by the Estonian government, which currently holds the EU’s six month Presidency. Secondly, because the debate about the future of Europe, which the Bratislava Summit kick-started almost exactly year ago, has become even more intense and interesting during the last few weeks.

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European Council Briefing Note 2017/5

June 2017: EU27 En Marche
The Bratislava Roadmap, Macron and a little bit of Brexit

EU27 are en marche, not just because of Emmanuel Macron, but also and still more because the EU institutions and the UK’s 27 partners have acquired an impressive momentum since June 2016. Events have played a part as always, but so too has leadership, particularly in and through the European Council.

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Pre-summit Briefing 2017/4

22-23 June: Implementing the Bratislava Road Map

The June European Council, which will begin in the middle of Thursday afternoon and is not expected to finish much before lunch on Friday, has an unusually heavy agenda. Most of this note will be devoted to an issue by issue analysis. Before counting the trees, however, it is important to take a look at the wood.

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