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21. 10. 2016 23:06

EU Leaders Negotiated Migration, Relationships with Russia, Support for Victims of the Conflict in Syria, and Free Trade

European Council meeting, 20 – 21 October 2016. Source: The European Union.
European Council meeting, 20 – 21 October 2016. Source: The European Union.
During a two-day summit held in Brussel, the Prime Minster of the Czech Republic, Bohuslav Sobotka, and other European leaders negotiated migration, relationships with Russia, situation in Syria, commercial policy, including the future of the CETA Agreement, and effective functioning of the internal market.

At the beginning of the October European Council meeting, the EU leaders discussed the current migration situation and functioning of hitherto adopted measures that decreased significantly the number of refugees in Europe. From the Czech point of view, the development in the field of migration proceeds in a positive way; EU focuses on long-term Czech priorities: protection of outside borders, blockage of illegal migration, cooperation with the third countries. “The introduction of the European border guard, which I have repeatedly supported, proves that Europe is able to be active when protecting its citizens. I have informed the European partners that the Czech Republic is ready to provide tens of our experts for the border guard”, the Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stated.

The EU leaders welcomed the fact that the migration situation was essentially calmed down and the Union´s resistance to migration waves increased during this year. Furthermore, it is necessary to work on the blockage of illegal migration from Africa through the central Mediterranean. Therefore, the EU leaders were dealing with the cooperation with the third parties by means of so-called migration compacts. EU is ready to cooperate with the source and transit countries and support them in the fight against illegal migration. The Union will ask the partner countries for their effective cooperation in the field of returns. The initial stage shall include five countries of Africa: Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia.

The heads of states and prime ministers of 28 European countries discussed also the external relationships of the Union and mainly the politics and position of the current Russia. The current events in Aleppo, Syria, were also a part of the strategic discussion about the relationships with Russia. The EU leaders agreed that the Russian Federation is extraordinarily liable for the current situation in Syria and humanitarian tragedy in Aleppo. Regarding the discussion about sanctions, the EU leaders confirmed their connection with the performance of Minsk Agreements and the termination of a conflict in Ukraine.

The EU leaders attended also to the humanitarian situation in Syria and agreed on further humanitarian aid of EU for the Syrian citizens. The Czech Republic, that has a functional embassy in Damascus as the only EU country, is ready to support this matter within the maximum scope. Sobotka stated: “Since 2012, the Czech Government has provided the humanitarian aid for Syria and surrounding countries, where the majority of Syrian refugees have found a shelter, in the amount of CZK 200 mill. We would like to provide next 50 mill. for humanitarian aid next year”.

The Friday topics of the European Council meeting were commercial policy and internal market. The EU leaders emphasized the importance of free trade agreements. Sobotka pointed out: “The free trade agreements may provide our citizens with bigger economic prosperity, new job positions, higher life standard”. The interest of the Czech Republic is that the Union has strong commercial policy contributing to the economic growth and increase of our competitiveness. The Prime Minister added: “I am convinced that the CETA trade agreement with Canada meets these criteria. Therefore, the Czech Republic supports its fastest possible completion and ratification”.

The last summit topic of the heads of state and EU governments was the internal market. A completely functional single market is a guarantee of our economic prosperity and development. Therefore, the Czech Government places such an emphasis on it. However, there has been an increasing pressure in some member countries recently, which requires the adoption of national regulations that create new obstacles in the internal market. Sobotka stated: “I came out against this negative trend at the today´s meeting. I asked the European Commission, as a protector of European Agreements, to act in this matter promptly. Mainly if the breach of common rules of the single market was concerned”. The Czech Republic is convinced that the EU target must be ensuring of fair conditions for business activities in the internal market that mustn´t be damaged by adopting protectionist measures.

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