EU leaders reviewed progress in a number of priority areas, reaffirmed the unity of the EU-27 and continued the debate on the future of the European Union.
Prior to the main agenda, President Juncker welcomed the re-election of Donald Tusk as President of the European Council for a second two-and-a-half year mandate.
Jobs, growth and competitiveness
Leaders welcomed the encouraging economic situation across Europe. The March European Council is the first meeting in almost a decade where all 28 economies are expected to grow over the next 2 years. Leaders agreed that this positive outlook needed to be reinforced, notably by focusing on the single market.
They also underlined trade policy as one of the most powerful engines for growth. They welcomed the positive European Parliament vote on the EU-Canada trade agreement. President Juncker highlighted the good progress towards a trade agreement with Japan: “We will seize this opportunity to show the entire planet that we remain a continent of free and organised trade.”
Leaders also discussed migration, welcoming the Commission’s Action Plan and Recommendation on returns. President Juncker called for renewed efforts in implementing agreed solidarity measures, whilst leaders agreed they would strive to agree on the Asylum policy reforms by June.
Following a discussion on the fragile situation in the Western Balkans, President Juncker reiterated the European Union’s continued commitment and support to ensure reform and stability in the region: “It must be clear that the Western Balkan countries are keeping their unequivocal European perspective”.
European Public Prosecutor’s Office
Leaders opened the way for 17 Member States to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s Office to fight fraud against the EU budget and bring criminals to justice. It will be done under enhanced cooperation which allows a group of at least nine nations to implement measures if all Member States fail to reach agreement. Other EU countries keep the right to join if and when they want.
Future of Europe
Leaders of the EU-27 continued their preparations for the Rome 60th Anniversary Summit to be held on 25 March. The White Paper on the future of Europe presented on 1 March is the European Commission’s contribution to that summit. At the ensuing press conference, President Juncker stressed the importance of having a wide-ranging debate across Europe: “This is the moment for Europeans to show their colours”, he said.
Compliments of the European Commission