CONSEIL EUROPEEN – BRUXELLES
14 & 15 décembre 2006
CONCLUSIONS DE LA PRÉSIDENCE
THE EUROPEAN UNION
Brussels, 15 December 2006
BRUSSELS EUROPEAN COUNCIL
14/15 DECEMBER 2006 PRESIDENCY CONCLUSIONS
Delegations will find attached the Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council (14/15 December 2006).
The meeting of the European Council was preceded by an exposé by the President of the European Parliament, Mr Josep Borrell, followed by an exchange of views. The European Council thanks Mr Borrell for the work he has accomplished during his tenure as President of the European Parliament.
The European Council warmly welcomes Bulgaria and Romania as members of the European Union on 1 January 2007. The accession of Bulgaria and Romania will mark the successful completion of the fifth enlargement.
Pursuing reform: the Constitutional Treaty
As agreed by the European Council at its meeting in June 2006, the Union has followed a two track approach. It has focussed on making best use of the possibilities offered by the existing treaties to deliver concrete results while preparing the ground for continuing the reform process. The Presidency provided the European Council with an assessment of its consultations with Member States regarding the Constitutional Treaty. The outcome of these consultations will be passed to the incoming German Presidency as part of its preparations for the report to be presented during the first half of 2007. The European Council reaffirms the importance of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome in order to confirm the values of the European integration process.
As agreed at the June 2006 European Council and on the basis of the Commission communication on the enlargement strategy and its special report on the EU's capacity to integrate new members, the European Council held an in-depth debate on enlargement. The European Council agrees that the enlargement strategy based on consolidation, conditionality and communication, combined with the EU's capacity to integrate new members, forms the basis for a renewed consensus on enlargement. The EU keeps its commitments towards the countries that are in the enlargement process.
Enlargement has been a success story for the European Union and Europe as a whole. It has helped to overcome the division of Europe and contributed to peace and stability throughout the continent. It has inspired reforms and has consolidated common principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law as well as the market economy. The wider internal market and economic cooperation have increased prosperity and competitiveness, enabling the enlarged Union to respond better to the challenges of globalisation. Enlargement has also enhanced the EU's weight in the world and made it a stronger international partner.
To sustain the integration capacity of the EU the acceding countries must be ready and able to fully assume the obligations of Union membership and the Union must be able to function effectively and to develop. Both these aspects are essential for ensuring broad and sustained public support, which should also be promoted through greater transparency and better communication.
The European Council confirms that the EU keeps its commitments regarding the ongoing accession negotiations. The recently enhanced rules governing the accession process provide for strict conditionality at all stages of the negotiations. The European Council agrees with the improvements suggested by the Commission concerning the management and the quality of the negotiations. Accordingly, difficult issues such as administrative and judicial reforms and the fight against corruption will be addressed at an early stage. Furthermore, the results of the political and economic dialogues will be fed into the accession negotiations. The pace of the accession process depends on the results of the reforms in the negotiating country, with each country being judged on its own merits. The Union will refrain from setting any target dates for accession until the negotiations are close to completion.
The European Council reaffirms that the future of the Western Balkans lies in the European Union. It reiterates that each country's progress towards the European Union depends on its individual efforts to comply with the Copenhagen criteria and the conditionality of the Stabilisation and Association Process. A country's satisfactory track-record in implementing its obligations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreements, including trade related provisions, is an essential element for the EU to consider any membership application.
The European Council stresses the importance of ensuring that the EU can maintain and deepen its own development. The pace of enlargement must take into account the capacity of the Union to absorb new members. The European Council invites the Commission to provide impact assessments on the key policy areas in the Commission's Opinion on a country's application for membership and in the course of accession negotiations. As the Union enlarges, successful European integration requires that EU institutions function effectively and that EU policies are further developed and financed in a sustainable manner.
The European Council endorses the conclusions on Turkey adopted by the Council (GAERC) on 11 December 2006.
The European Council endorses the conclusions on Croatia adopted by the Council (GAERC) on 11 December 2006.
The European Council notes that the candidate country status of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was recognition of the country's reform achievements. The European Council calls for accelerating the pace of reforms in key areas and for the implementation of the priorities identified in the European Partnership in order to progress towards the goal of moving ahead in the accession process.
The European Council welcomes the launch of visa facilitation and readmission negotiations with all the countries of the region with a view to concluding the negotiations as soon as possible. The conclusion of such agreements will promote people-to-people contacts between the EU and the Western Balkan countries and will increase the opportunities for travelling, especially for the younger generation. Recalling the Thessaloniki Agenda, the European Council also acknowledges the importance the people of the Western Balkans attach to the perspective of visa free movement. Furthermore, the European Council underlines the desirability of promoting people-to-people contacts by also making available more scholarships for the students of the region.
The European Council welcomes progress made in the Central European Free Trade Agreement, which will be signed in Bucharest on December 19, and looks forward to a regional and inclusive trade agreement. The new CEFTA will be a substantial step forward both economically and politically.
Serbia remains welcome to join the European Union. Recalling its Declaration on the Western Balkans of June 2006, the European Council reaffirms its continued engagement with and support to Serbia's European course. In this context, it encourages the Serbian authorities to accelerate their efforts to meet the necessary conditions, notably full cooperation with ICTY. In view of Serbia's considerable institutional capacity, the European Council is confident that Serbia will be able to accelerate its preparations on the road towards the EU once the SAA negotiations are resumed.
AREA OF FREEDOM, SECURITY AND JUSTICE
The European Council took stock of the implementation of the Hague Programme and reiterated its commitment to the further development of the area of freedom, security and justice.
In that context the European Council discussed migration and the improvement of decision making in the area of freedom, security and justice.
The European Council is conscious that, in the process of creating an area of Freedom, Security and Justice, the Union is faced with constant and growing expectations from citizens, who wish to see concrete results in matters such as cross-border crime and terrorism as well as migration. At the same time, more and more concerns are raised that responding to these expectations is difficult within the framework of existing decision-making procedures.
It was against this background, and in the context of the review of the Hague Programme, that the European Council, in its conclusions of June 2006, called upon the Presidency to explore, in close collaboration with the Commission, the possibilities of improving decision-making and action in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice on the basis of existing treaties.
Drawing upon the analysis and reflection carried out, notably in the Justice and Home Affairs ministers' meeting at Tampere in September, the European Council considers first of all that practical progress could be achieved by intensifying operational cooperation between competent authorities of the Member States. The European Council invites the Council to make progress in the light of the options that have been presented. At the same time, the European Council is convinced that the framework for pursuing the Union's policies aimed at enhancing the area of Freedom, Security and Justice will need to be genuinely strengthened in order to meet present challenges.
In this respect, the European Council reaffirms the principles acknowledged in the context of the Union's reform process. They constitute the most balanced basis for future work in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice. These principles will be taken into account when decisions regarding the continuing of the reform process are made.
A comprehensive European Migration Policy
The European Council underlines the importance of migration issues for the EU and its Member States. Addressing both challenges and opportunities of migration for the benefit of all is one of the major priorities for the EU at the start of the 21st century.
The European migration policy builds on the conclusions of the Tampere European Council in 1999, the Hague Programme of 2004 and the Global Approach to Migration adopted in 2005. It is based on the solidarity, mutual trust and shared responsibility of the European Union and its Member States. It is also based on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, the Geneva Convention and due access to asylum procedures. It requires a genuine partnership with third countries and must be fully integrated into the Union's external policies.
Events in 2006 and the progress made in implementing the Global Approach have demonstrated that migration needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner and that efforts made so far now need to be strengthened. Future work should take into account the Commission's communications and broaden the scope of action to other policy areas and apply lessons learnt to other regions.
The European Council accordingly agrees on the following next steps to be taken during the course of 2007:
a) strengthen and deepen international cooperation and dialogue with third countries of origin and transit, in a comprehensive and balanced manner. In particular:
the partnership between the European Union and African and Mediterranean countries will be deepened by broadening dialogue and strengthening practical cooperation; this partnership will build in particular on the joint commitments made in the Ministerial conferences in Rabat and Tripoli in 2006 as well as on the work underway in the framework of the EU/Africa dialogue on migration and development, on the basis of article 13 of the Cotonou Agreement, and the Euromed process, including the Ministerial Conference on migration in 2007. In order to strengthen the migration dialogue, specific EU missions will be sent to key African countries during 2007,
the migration and development agenda will be intensified by increasing coherence between the Union's various policies, including their financial instruments, with a view to addressing the root causes of migration,
Member States and the Commission will integrate migration and development issues in aid policies and programming, encourage the countries of origin and transit to incorporate migration issues in their national development plans, including poverty reduction strategies, and support capacity building for effective migration management, including through establishment of country-specific migration profiles. The new generation of regional and country strategy papers will fully incorporate, where relevant, the connection between migration and development. In this regard, the Commission's initiative for an EU Programme on Migration and Development in Africa provides a way to address this issue in the short and medium term. Member States are also encouraged to enhance coordination and to develop joint programming,
country-specific cooperation platforms on migration and development will be established to bring together the partner country concerned, EU Member States and the Commission as well as relevant international organisations to manage migration in a more coherent manner; the Commission is invited to consider capacity-building measures in favour of countries of origin and transit,
a coherent EU follow up to the September 2006 UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development will be ensured; the EU will take a lead in placing migration and development issues on the agenda of the international community. The first meeting of the Global Forum on International Migration and Development in July 2007 in Belgium will be a vital step in this respect,
measures will be taken to improve cooperation on return and readmission with third countries, including effective identification and documentation; special emphasis will be giving to the reintegration of returned migrants. Negotiations on EC readmission agreements need to be stepped up; to this end the Council should explore further ways and means by which Member States could support the Commission in its efforts to conclude such agreements at EC level and to ensure their effective implementation,
stepping up concrete work along migratory routes in partnership with third countries in particular with a view to preventing and combating trafficking and smuggling of human beings, while ensuring effective international protection for persons who may need it as well as for vulnerable groups such as women and providing specific measures for unaccompanied minors,
while respecting the competences of Member States in this area, consideration will be given to how legal migration opportunities can be incorporated into the Union's external policies in order to develop a balanced partnership with third countries adapted to specific EU Member States' labour market needs; ways and means to facilitate circular and temporary migration will be explored; the Commission is invited to present detailed proposals on how to better organize and inform about the various forms of legal movement between the EU and third countries by June 2007,
the Global Approach will be applied to the eastern and south eastern regions neighbouring the European Union. The Commission is invited to make proposals on enhanced dialogue and concrete measures by June 2007;
b) strengthen cooperation among Member States in the fight against illegal immigration, taking account of the Commission communication on policy priorities in this regard. In particular:
measures against illegal employment will be intensified at Member State and EU level; the European Council invites the Commission to present proposals by April 2007 in this regard,
existing and new technological possibilities will be fully utilised to enhance border control and to allow persons to be identified reliably; in particular, the Commission is invited to report before the end of 2007 on how to improve access control, including on the feasibility of establishing a generalised and automated entry-exit system for this purpose. Applicable provisions on data protection will be respected in this regard,
the Commission is invited to study the possibilities of developing policies for extended European solidarity in immigration, border control and asylum policies, taking into account the initiative made to this end;
c) improve the management of the European Union's external border on the basis of the integrated border management strategy adopted by the Council in 2006. In particular:
the capacity of Frontex will be rapidly enhanced in order for it to be able to meet the migration challenges at the EU's external borders next year, by ensuring adequate economic and personnel resources and their effective use, establishing procedures for emergency situations, strengthening operational means, reinforcing links with the Immigration Liaison Officer Network and completing the planned review of the Agency and its tasks in 2007,
Frontex is invited urgently to finalise its ongoing work on creation of a centralized record of technical equipment offered by Member States which could be put at the disposal of another Member State; and to report on the progress made to the Council by the end of April 2007. The Member States are invited to contribute actively to this process with national means and resources,
priority will also be given to examining the creation of a European Surveillance System for the southern maritime borders; Frontex is invited to establish as soon as possible, together with the Member States of the region, of a permanent Coastal Patrol Network at the southern maritime borders,
the efficiency of cooperation on search and rescue will be enhanced and work will be taken forward to assist in developing guidelines on the legal scope for action to be taken to counter illegal migration by sea,
the European Parliament and the Council are invited to reach rapid agreement on the Regulation on the establishment of Rapid Border Intervention Teams in the first semester of 2007 and to study this model in other border-related functions, such as humanitarian assistance;
d) develop, as far as legal migration is concerned, well-managed migration policies, fully respecting national competences, to assist Member States to meet existing and future labour needs while contributing to the sustainable development of all countries; in particular, the forthcoming Commission proposals within the framework of the Policy Plan on Legal Migration of December 2005 should be rapidly examined; Member States are invited to exchange information on measures taken in the areas of asylum and migration, in line with the mutual information mechanism established by the Council last October;
e) promote integration and intercultural dialogue and the fight against all forms of discrimination at Member State and EU level, strengthen integration policies and agree on common goals and strategies; the Ministerial conference on integration to be held in May 2007 will be of particular importance in that respect;
f) realise the Common European Asylum System by the end of 2010, starting with a preliminary evaluation of its first phase in 2007. The development of its second phase will be accompanied by a strengthening of practical cooperation in the area of asylum, in particular through the creation of asylum expert teams and the setting up of an asylum cooperation network; the possible creation of a European Support Office will also be examined;
g) make adequate resources available for implementing the comprehensive migration policy by full use of the substantial funds which are available if all the existing budget lines are brought fully into play and all possibilities available used consistently and coherently. In that respect the External borders, Integration, Return and Refugee Funds will bring important resources to underpin the comprehensive migration policy, as will the ENPI and the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI). The EDF will also, in agreement with ACP partners, help address root causes of migration through long term development policies, as well as by assistance to ACP partners in capacity building in the framework of the EU Governance Initiative.
The Commission is invited to report back on the implementation of the comprehensive migration policy in good time before the December 2007 European Council.