First of all I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the victims of this accident first which is concluded in Bulgaria, and also express thoughts to the attention of North Macedonia, with many victims of the coming of this country.
Our last meeting of the European Council was very intense, during which we addressed many of the current pressing challenges.
First, we discussed the current surge in energy prices and its impacts on families and businesses, especially vulnerable citizens and SMEs struggling to recover from the pandemic. The European Council welcomed the toolbox presented by the Commission on short-term relief measures. Member States and the Commission are invited to make the best use of this toolkit. We have also invited the Commission to study the functioning of the gas and electricity market and the EU ETS market, with the help of the European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators and the European Markets Authority. financial. The two agencies have meanwhile given a preliminary analysis ahead of the December European Council. In any case, this price increase shows that we need an energy market which contributes to affordable prices, which is resilient and which provides predictability and security of supply, and which supports the transition to energy efficiency. climate neutrality. In this regard, we also look forward to the next Commission proposals on strengthening the gas market. We also called on the European Investment Bank to step up investments in the energy transition. One point has been made clear by many leaders: the current price problem is not a reason to relax our climate ambitions, on the contrary, it shows how urgent, existential and necessary this transition is. The European Council will return to this important issue in December.
On COVID-19, we are seeing cases increase, so we need to remain extremely vigilant. Our internal coordination is again necessary and crucial to ensure that the measurements are as up to date as possible. Vaccination campaigns are going in the right direction, but we must make a final effort in overcoming vaccine hesitation and tackling misinformation. We must remain committed to international solidarity because the only way to ensure our safety is to ensure that everyone is safe, thanks to the global deployment of vaccines.
We also had a strategic debate on trade. The European Council agrees that trade is a powerful instrument which promotes job creation and growth. We must use trade to support our prosperity and promote our social and environmental priorities, as well as our core values. I know this is a concern shared by your assembly. Together, we must clarify our objectives and set clear priorities: we want to build a level playing field, we want greater reciprocity, we want to protect our planet and promote our values. And we have to improve the process. This means greater transparency of the mandates for ratification. This would help to secure the support of the public and parliament. Our Brexit negotiations, for example, could serve as an inspiring model.
We also had the opportunity to address the issue of the digital revolution and our ambitions on the subject, because we are convinced that it can be a motor to bring prosperity, innovation, jobs, and competitive capacity. In this context, we noted the importance of making progress in the framework of legislative work, especially on the law relating to digital services or the law relating to digital markets. We are delighted that the Council is now up and running and engaged in negotiations with Parliament on this subject. We are also aiming to support the gigantic work being carried out by the Commission in this context, and in particular in connection with the importance of semiconductors. In addition, we noted how important it was to be mobilized to strengthen our capacities when we face threats related to cybersecurity. We believe that we are planning our European response capacity, for example by developing crisis and incident management capacities.
We also considered that digital connectivity is a subject that must mobilize us. By carrying the values that unite us, values of trust, values of transparency and values of accountability, which are values that we share with other countries outside the European Union. We believe that dialogues should be stepped up to bring together as many similar standards as possible on this important subject.
We also had a debate on the rule of law. It was an opportunity to identify the exact difficulties and to better understand the different points of view. Our debate was conducted with respect. The rule of law, including the independence of the judiciary, is fundamental. On existing disputes, legal and institutional instruments have already been activated, and others could still be activated. But leaders also agreed that political dialogue must continue to find common solutions. Dialogue and respect are also necessary, and we know that sometimes rhetoric can make things more difficult. I hope that our debate in the European Council facilitated a common understanding and was a positive step which would help to find solutions.
We also had a broad discussion on migration. It is always a difficult question, but it is imperative to meet this important challenge. We are determined to fully control our external borders to prevent illegal migration, prevent loss of life, prevent exploitation of migrants by smugglers. We will not allow the plight of human beings, of migrants, to be used for political ends. We condemn such hybrid attacks at the EU borders and we had the opportunity to discuss the implementation and follow-up to the conclusions of our June meeting. The aim is to strengthen the external dimension of migration, which includes the intensification of mutually beneficial partnerships and cooperation with third countries. The Commission has prepared action plans for key countries. It is important to implement them as soon as possible. We also discussed the internal dimension of migration. The migration pact has been on the table for many months, and we know that there are different positions and that this issue remains very sensitive. But we had the renewed feeling that work on this subject should be continued.
A few words on the situation on the Belarusian border. I visited Poland on November 10 and expressed the Union’s full solidarity with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. This is not just an attack on their borders, it is a hybrid attack on our common European borders and we condemn it. We will not allow the Belarusian regime to intimidate us and undermine our values and our unity. Since our meeting of the European Council, events have continued. What have we done to deal with this crisis, which is also a humanitarian crisis? First, the Foreign Affairs Council adopted an expanded legal basis for sanctions to include additional sectors. An example: the majority of Belavia’s fleet consists of planes leased to European companies. This will be stopped when the decision is taken, which is imminent. We have also taken concrete steps to prevent airlines from transporting migrants to Minsk. My own diplomatic team had fruitful talks with the Turkish authorities, but also with other countries like the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and others. As a result of these joint efforts with the Commission, Turkish Airlines decided to no longer allow Belavia to transport migrants to Minsk and to stop issuing one-way tickets to Minsk from Istanbul to the main nationalities concerned. Other companies have made similar decisions. Commission Vice-President Schinas visited several countries in the region: Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Lebanon. He managed to get their cooperation and I salute his work. I also met during my visit to Poland Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to assess the situation and discuss how best to cooperate between Poland and the EU. We have also had many contacts with other European leaders in the region. The German Chancellor also twice called on President Putin and President Lukashenka to help them deal with the humanitarian crisis. The Belarusian authorities have since adopted some measures that seem more positive, but it is too early to assess whether this will mark a real change in their position. That is why we must remain cautious. Still, some of the most vulnerable migrants were accommodated in a warehouse, and Belarus cooperated with Iraq to organize a repatriation flight of several hundred Iraqis. We welcome the cooperation with the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR. We call on Belarus to provide both organizations with full access to provide humanitarian assistance and help organize voluntary returns to countries of origin.
My analysis of the situation is twofold: on the one hand, our unity and joint team actions have yielded results. We have more or less stopped the arrivals of migrants to Belarus, the flows have been reduced, we were not destabilized by this attack, but we must continue to be vigilant and continue to act. The second point is the humanitarian situation. We cannot lower our eyes to this situation. We will be determined to work so that assistance can be allocated and allocated to those who are on the ground and who should be waiting for this situation.
Dear colleagues, that is the summary of this European Council in a few words. We also had the opportunity, of course, to address some themes related to the preparations for external relations, in particular the COP 26, which ended some time ago now, but also the next summits that we will be leading. notably within the framework of the Eastern Partnership, but also with ASEAN. I would like to be available to answer your comments and questions and thank you for your attention.
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