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European Council: EU leaders in Brussels to decide on common defence, Brexit and Banking Union

Bruxelles: la nuova sede del Consiglio europeo

(Brussels) The heads of state or government of the 28 EU member states will gather in Brussels at 3pm today for the last European Council of the year. They will look at “some of the most pressing issues, including defence, migration, foreign affairs, social issues, education and culture”. The Summit – the European Council announced in a statement – will also continue tomorrow with a focus on Brexit and the discussion of Article 50 in an EU 27 format. The “Euro Summit” will then discuss the economic and monetary union before the final press conference scheduled for tomorrow at about 1pm. In his invitation letter to EU leaders, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk wrote: “Our unity in recent months has been outstanding. We have demonstrated that we stand firmly together, supporting one another when needed”. Also this time “we can demonstrate that despite differences, maintaining unity is possible. The best example of this will be the launch of new cooperation in European defence, i.e. Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)”. And it is precisely the “European Defence Policy”, to which 25 countries so far are committed, that will be the first item on the agenda. Discussion will continue on “social issues” – finally brought to the attention of EU leaders – with a special focus on education and culture, in line with the objectives set under the “Social Pillar” announced in Gothenburg in November. Discussion will then focus on external relations (starting with the issue of Jerusalem as capital) and on migration (internal and external dimensions of the phenomenon). The European Council, in an EU 27 format, will go on to “review the latest developments in the negotiations following the United Kingdom’s notification of its intention to leave the EU”. Leaders will reassess the state of progress in the Brexit negotiations “to determine whether sufficient progress has been achieved on three specific issues: citizens’ rights, Ireland” and the UK’s “financial obligations” to the EU. The leaders should decide to move on to the second phase of the negotiations, namely those relating to future relations once the UK’s divorce from the EU is complete. Finally, the Euro Summit will discuss the EMU and the Banking Union. President Tusk has repeatedly insisted that the “completion of the Banking Union” is “both possible and necessary”.

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