In Brief

The ‘other’ European Council summit

What else is on the EU agenda - apart from Brexit?

With attention focused on whether EU leaders will agree at today’s European Council summit to sanction the next phase of Brexit negotiations, it is easy to forget there are other issues on the European Union agenda. 

Some priorities for discussion have been laid out in a letter sent to EU leaders by the European Council President Donald Tusk, in which he outlines plans to accelerate work on highly sensitive areas such as immigration policy and reform of the eurozone.

 Writing of the “new energy” within the EU generated by the UK’s decision to leave, Tusk also called on European heads of state to “cut the Gordian knot” of red tape tying up draft legislation in Brussels. Proposed new laws that have become bogged down include strengthening European defence coordination and copyright reform.

“I am very happy with your willingness to accelerate our work and overcome the sense of powerlessness,” Tusk wrote, adding that he saw a “willingness to reinvigorate and enrich our work, including by drawing on new ideas”.

The letter is part of a “wide-ranging discussion about EU reform that has been ignited by the election of French president Emmanuel Macron and by calls from Brussels for the bloc to move on from Brexit with bold new initiatives”, says the Financial Times.

In a bid to engage national leaders more directly in creating EU legislation, something German Chancellor Angela Merkel also wants, Tusk has proposed an ambitious timeline of 13 summits over the next two years. He hopes to ‘reboot’ the EU after the shock of Brexit, the migrant crisis and rise of populist anti-EU parties.

Tusk’s proposals also include updating the working method at summits by scrapping the traditional consensual approach and allowing room for open disagreement among leaders.

“Instead, political splits among the member states would be tracked in so-called decision notes, which would mark a major break with the EU tradition to carefully paper over differences,” says The Straits Times.

However, Tusk and other EU leaders face a difficult task, with many Eastern European countries opposed to greater EU integration and a rebellion against EU migrant-sharing quotas by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland.

One solution alluded to in the letter, already floated by both Macron and European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker, is the idea of a multi-speed Europe, with what Tusk describes as “enhanced cooperation among willing countries”.

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