Pre-summit Briefing 2018/6

17-18 October: Brexit, Migration, Internal Security and the Euro

This time, Brexit really is the main story. There will be no formal negotiations, needless to say. Mrs May has been invited to explain her position. She will not however be present at the working dinner on 17 October, at which the heads of state and government will discuss Brexit.

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Pre-summit Briefing 2018/5

19-20 September: Migration, Internal Security and Brexit

If the British media are to be believed, the informal European Council in Salzburg this week will be all about Brexit and if some representatives of the Austrian government are right, it will be run by the Austrian Presidency. Fortunately, neither claim is correct.

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Pre-summit Briefing 2018/4

28-29 June: Migration Policy, Security and Defence, Economic Policy, the Future of the Euro and Brexit

The heads of state or government will as so often nowadays meet in three formats. The first and longest session, on the afternoon and evening of 28 June, will be a meeting of the European Council as such, with Mrs May present. The second, on the morning of 29 June, will be a breakfast session of the European Council in article 50 formation, at which EU27 will review the current situation regarding Brexit. Later on the morning of 29 June, there will be a Euro Summit in ‘inclusive formation’, involving the 19 Euro Area leaders and all their non-Euro Area colleagues except the British prime minister. The European Council and the Euro Summit could, and almost certainly will be lively, but the Brexit breakfast is likely to be brief and may even be rather boring.

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Pre-summit Briefing 2018/3

16-17 May in Sofia: Innovation, the Western Balkans, Iran, the US and Gaza

There will obviously be considerable interest in what the heads of state and government have to say in Sofia about the EU’s response to president Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran, EU-US trade relations and the killings in Gaza. The main business of the heads of state and government on 16 and 17 May will still however be Innovation and Digital Policy and the future of the EU’s relations with the Western Balkans.

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Pre-summit Briefing 2018/2

22-23 March: Trade Policy, Taxation, Turkey, Russia, Brexit and EMU

There will once again be three meetings rather than one this week. The first, on 22 March, will be of the European Council in its normal formation, with Mrs May present throughout. The second, on the morning of 23 March will be of the European Council in its article 50 formation without Mrs May. And the third, later on the same morning, will be a Euro Summit involving Euro Area governments only.

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Pre-summit Briefing 2018/1

23 February: Institutions and Money 

The European Council meeting on 23 February is informal and is likely to be relatively short. After a brief exchange of views at noon with Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, who might well emerge from the forthcoming Italian elections as the next prime minister and therefore as a member of the European Council in his own right, the European Council proper will begin with a working lunch. One can never be certain how long either the lunch or the second working session directly afterwards will last, but the Presidency expects, or at least hopes, that the meeting will finish by 18.30.

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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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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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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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