European Council Briefing Note 2018/1

February: Institutional Issues, the MFF, Martin Selmayr 

The meeting on 23 February was an informal meeting of the leaders of EU27. The issues with which it was mainly concerned were large and important, but it was an open-ended discussion in which everybody could have their say and most did and at the end of which no Conclusions were published.

The meeting was nevertheless interesting, important and revealing. Interesting because of what was said. Important because of the direction which it set and the tone in which it did so. Revealing because of the light which it cast on the politics and morale of the EU without Britain.

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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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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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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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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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European Council Briefing Note 2016/7

December 2016

Migration, Security, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, Cyprus, the economy and Brexit

As the opening sentence of the synopsis acknowledges, this paper is long overdue. For reasons that are explained in both the synopsis and the introduction and confirmed in the main body of the paper, the fact that it is being circulated on 25 March, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, is however a fortunate coincidence. The Conclusions of the December European Council were relatively modest. It was nevertheless a fitting conclusion to a year which, despite Brexit, Trump, Wilders, Le Pen and sundry other distractions, was a rather encouraging one, both for the EU in general and for the European Council in particular.

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European Council Briefing Note 2016/6

October 2016 

Migration, Russia, Syria and Trade

The October European Council got a bad press. Undeservedly so. It was not one of the European Council’s most notable meetings, but it addressed some of the most serious questions of the day and it did so in a manner and in a tone which showed the European Council off to advantage.

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European Council Briefing Note 2016/4-5

June and September 2016 

The European Union without Britain

The present paper deals with three meetings rather than one: the meeting of the European Council on 28 June, the first EU27 summit on 29 June and the Bratislava summit of 16 September. Its principal focus is not on the British government’s clumsy, confused and at times comical efforts to extricate itself from the EU, but on EU27’s first and surprisingly firm steps to safeguard and develop a European Union without Britain.

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European Council Briefing Note 2016/1-3

February and March 2016 

Migration Policy, the British Question and Economic Policy

This is a very long paper. There is also a lot of narrative which is better read than summarised. My purpose in this synopsis is therefore to focus on a few key issues:

  1. Why three in one makes sense
  2. The British Question
  3. Migration Policy
  4. Economic Policy
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