Brussels, 15 December 2016 - EU leaders reached a consensus at the European Council meeting, enabling the Netherlands to ratify the EU - Ukraine association agreement. During the meeting, a decision was made to accelerate Ukraine’s progress towards a visa-free regime with the Union, and to prolong the EU economic sanctions against Russia for the failure to implement the Minsk Agreements. “Today’s agreement means that the door to the European Union is not shut to Ukraine. Today’s decisions on political cooperation and free trade, and the visa-free regime, expected in the near future, is an important signal for Ukraine,” stressed Prime Minister Ratas.
A discussion regarding Syria was introduced by the Mayor of Aleppo who gave an overview of the sufferings of civilians and the severity of the humanitarian disaster. The EU leaders unanimously condemned the carnage caused by the Assad regime and its allies, in particular Russia and Iran, including the intentional targeting of civilians and hospitals. “The most pressing issue to which the European Union must contribute, is to alleviate people’s sufferings in Syria,” said Ratas.
In regard to the security and defence cooperation in Europe, it was decided that the Member States must take greater responsibility for their own security and defence. The EU leaders intend to step up the development of Member States’ military capabilities. The decision to improve the planning of EU’s external missions and strengthen cooperation in the fields of hybrid threats, cyber defence and strategic communication as well as in carrying out joint EU-NATO military exercises, was also made.
The Prime Minister welcomed the continuation of the dialogue between Turkey and the EU, which is extremely important to both parties in addition to the fact that both parties remain committed to the EU - Turkey agreement on migration.
In regard to the economy, according to Ratas, it is symbolic that the European Council discussed the development of the single services market and the digital single market, stressing the importance of the free movement of data, which is a priority for Estonia.
A meeting of the Heads of State or Government of the 27 Member States agreed on the negotiation process concerning the UK’s exit from the European Union. Following notification by the United Kingdom, the European Council will nominate the European Commission as the Union negotiator adopt negotiating directives. Representatives of the President of the European Council will be present and participatory, in a supporting role, in all negotiation sessions. The Commission will keep the European Parliament closely, and regularly, informed throughout the negotiation.
This was the first European Council for Prime Minister Ratas, “I applaud the EU leaders for their will to reach a solution even during the most difficult discussions. In difficult times, maintaining the unity of the European Union and looking for a consensus is especially important.”
Photos from Brussels: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/wycxb08ygcyoz0g/AABQC0UvZ3wlzTLJLT0qSiHIa?dl=0