Addressing the European Parliament on the day before the European Council, President Juncker set out the priorities of the meeting: the refugee crisis, defence, the investment plan, the European Solidarity Corps and foreign affairs.
Addressing the European Parliament on the day before the European Council on 15 December 2016, President Juncker highlighted the progress made by the European Union on refugee crisis management: greater shared responsibility of our common borders with the setting up of the Border Guard, the implementation of the agreement with Turkey, in particular of the support for Syrian refugees in Turkey, the new partnerships for migration, initially with five African countries. He noted, however, that serious problems remained in the Mediterranean area, particularly on Italy’s borders, stressing that we cannot ‘abandon [this country] to its fate’ and that the efforts that Italy had agreed to make in the field of migration ‘must not have negative budgetary consequences for Italy.’ He also called on the Heads of State or Government to ‘be ambitious on defence’ and referred to the Commission’s proposals to ‘put in place a genuine European defence industrial base’. However, he added that ‘I don’t want the debate on European defence that is going to be launched to take us away from from the immediate concerns of Europeans’, in particular ‘social assistance policy and the Pillar of Social Rights.’
President Juncker also referred to the success of the Investment Plan. Behind the numbers, the Plan ‘has a daily impact on people right across Europe’, in particular on SMEs. He also spoke of the success of the European Solidarity Corps, which in a week had already mobilised 10 000 young people. This demonstrated that ‘young people are Europeans, and that they are eager to contribute meaningfully to society and to show solidarity.’
On foreign affairs, he said that ‘the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement must be concluded. It is a matter of geopolitical responsibility’ and on the war in Syria, he called on ‘all the parties involved to put an end to the conflict in order to recall their humanity and to allow the civilians, the women and the children to leave the city in safety.’
Compliments of the European Commission