20th Oct 2016

EU must find common objectives at summit, says Tusk

EU Council chief Donald Tusk has urged member states to come up with common objectives at their meeting in Bratislava on 16 September.

"The only way to succeed in Bratislava is to be frank and not to avoid even the most controversial and difficult topics," Tusk said on Thursday (1 September) after a meeting with Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel.

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Tusk has been on a diplomatic drive over the last few days to prepare for the Bratislava meeting, the first EU summit without the UK.

"We need to come up with a common diagnosis of the European Union after the vote in the UK," he said.

Leaders needed to establish common objectives, he said, that would allow the bloc to "rebuild a sense of political unity" ahead of another summit in Rome in March next year, the 60th anniversary of the EU.

"We need that sense of political unity much more today, with the world around Europe bringing more threats than opportunities, than we did in the sunny days," Tusk said.

He outlined some key policy areas based on the talk he had with leaders.

The EU's priority should be taking back "full control in the field of internal security, and on our external borders," he said.

Some leaders, like Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka have already said they would support the establishment of an EU army.

Tusk said the key issue was still migration.

"Never again should we allow the chaos of 2015 to repeat in Europe," the EU council chief said, adding that the influx of migrants had been reduced significantly due to the common efforts.

On terrorism, Tusk said member states must strengthen co-operation in the internal and external security area. He added that national security would remain a national responsibility, but that there was more to do at a European level to stop terrorists.

EU needs to protect itself from Brexit

Tusk reiterated that EU's position on Brexit has not changed: it will not start negotiations until London triggers the exit procedure.

He warned that article 50 of the EU Treaty was there "to protect the interests of the members of the Union that want to stay together, not the one which decides to leave", so the EU should not give that up.

"We need to discuss what Brexit means politically for the European Union. We need to talk about ourselves," Tusk said about the forthcoming Bratislava summit.

Tusk also highlighted the need to re-engage European citizens. He said leaders warned him about voters' growing fear of globalisation and the feeling of uncertainty about the economic future.

"We must help people to restore faith in the fact that the EU should serve them, guarantee their protection and share their emotions. All too often today, the European elites seem to be detached from reality," he said.

Tusk has engaged in several meetings this week with EU leaders to lay the groundwork for the summit.

He met French president Francois Hollande and Belgian PM Charles Michel on Wednesday, but gave no press statements. He also talked to Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov and Croatian prime minister Tihomir Oreskovic.

Earlier in the week he held telephone conversations with Portuguese PM Antonio Costa and Cyprus president Nikos Anastasiades.

On Thursday he is scheduled to talk to Slovenian PM Miro Cerar. On Friday he will talk to Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern before meeting Slovak prime minister Robert Fico, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

Tusk will head for the G20 summit in China over the weekend.

His diplomatic tour follows that of German chancellor Angela Merkel, who met 15 leaders at the end of August to prepare for the Bratislava summit.

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