Brussels, 20 December 2013 – At the meeting of the European Council held today in Brussels, EU leaders discussed economic coordination, foreign relations and enlargement of the EU. Heads of State and Government confirmed that the Union was still ready to sign Association and Free Trade Agreements with Ukraine. The European Council also called for a peaceful solution to the political crisis in Ukraine that would meet the aspirations of the Ukrainian people. Also, the Association Agreements initialled by Moldova and Georgia at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius should be signed as soon as possible. Speaking about Ukraine, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said that besides talking to Ukrainian leaders, more attention should be paid to communicating with the Ukrainian people. “We need to explain why the European Union is beneficial to both us and the Ukrainians; how the Ukrainians would benefit from access to a stable market of 500 million consumers; how the opportunities of learning, working and travelling in Europe would expand the horizons of the Ukrainian people,” said Prime Minister Ansip. Speaking about options open to Ukraine, Ansip added that simplified visa procedures and visa-free travel, provided that certain conditions are met, would contribute to the Ukrainians’ understanding of the values and functioning of the European Union. “People who have never been to the countries of the European Union struggle to understand what we have to offer,” said at a meeting with EU leaders. Heads of State and Government confirmed the enlargement conclusions and negotiating framework for membership talks with Serbia, approved by the EU General Affairs Council on 17 December. The first official round of negotiations with Serbia will take place on 21 January 2014. EU leaders voiced their concern at the aggravating crisis in the Central African Republic and its impact on the humanitarian and human rights situation. French President François Hollande gave an overview of France’s efforts to ensure security in the region. Humanitarian aid is not sufficient to stabilise the situation in the country; security assistance is also needed.As regards economic issues, the EU Heads of State and Government approved an agreement on the Single Resolution Mechanism for the banking union, reached by the ministers of finance of the Union the day before yesterday. The agreement, which serves as a basis for negotiations with the European Parliament, means that in the future all decisions to restore the solvency of problematic banks will be made by a centralised crisis resolution body. Banks are required to make contributions to a single fund. If, exceptionally, additional resources were needed, a Single Bank Resolution Fund would come into play as a last resort only to finance bank resolution process. The fund will be established by an agreement between Member States and built up progressively over 10 years. The participants in the meeting acknowledged that it is important for the euro area countries to strengthen their commitment to economic policy and reforms in areas that are crucial to growth, competitiveness and jobs. The meeting considered the establishment of both contractual arrangements and associated solidarity mechanisms that would help member states to implement reforms before they plunge into financial difficulties. The discussions of the matter will continue in October 2014.