Beyond Brexit: Migration and the other issues on the EU summit agenda

The two-day European Union summit that opened on Tuesday was focusing on Britain's historic decision to leave the bloc. But other key topics were also discussed. Here is a brief summary:

MIGRATION

After managing to cut down the number of migrants travelling along the so-called Balkan route with a controversial March agreement with Turkey, the EU is under pressure to also limit flows across the central Mediterranean.

Average daily migrant landings to Greece from Turkey fell to less than 50 in May, compared to more than 2,000 in January. During the same period, arrivals from North Africa to Italy have almost quadrupled, from 176 in January to 643 last month.

EU leaders gave their blessing to recent European Commission proposals to negotiate deals with countries of origin and transit offering aid and trade benefits in return for them agreeing to take back migrants caught entering the EU illegally.

The first such agreements should be finalized "before the end of the year," and the commission should present ideas for a parallel Investment Plan to benefit EU neighbour countries by September, the leaders said in a statement.

European Investment Bank chief Werner Hoyer outlined plans to spend a further 6 billion euros (6.6 billion dollars) on migration challenges in the Western Balkans and Syria's neighbourhood - on top of 7.5 billion euros already pledged - he told dpa.

DUTCH REFERENDUM ON UKRAINE

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte raised the issue of a non-binding referendum his country held in April, in which voters rejected an EU-Ukraine association agreement that entered into force this year.

The impasse linked to the Dutch vote should be solved as soon as possible, the leaders said.

TRADE

Free trade negotiations the EU is conducting with the United States and Canada are facing headwinds. They have been criticized by anti-establishment forces on both sides of the Atlantic and may need radical adjusting in the light of the Brexit.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed that the deal with Canada, which now needs to be ratified, should not be put to national parliaments for approval, to ease the process. This could pit the EU's executive against the wishes of several member states.

EU FOREIGN POLICY

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg joined EU leaders at the start of their talks, ahead of next month's NATO summit in Warsaw, where members are due to formalize an EU-NATO cooperation agreement.

Separately, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini presented a paper setting out her ideas on the bloc's foreign policy strategy. Also, the leaders' summit statement reiterated the EU's readiness to help Libya.

SINGLE MARKET

The leaders called for "swift and determined progress" on removing barriers to trade in the digital sector.

Promised actions include: an end to mobile roaming tariffs by June 2017; regulatory work to promote 5G mobile networks and investments on high-speed broadband networks; and fighting "unjustified" geo-blocking, the practice that limits online purchases from one EU country to the other.

Last update: Wed, 29/06/2016 - 01:34
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