Following the October summit, MEPs discussed the “Leader’s Agenda” on the future of Europe with Presidents Tusk and Juncker.
Opening the debate on the 19-20 October European Council conclusions, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani repeated his invitation to heads of state or government to take part in Parliament’s plenary debates on the future of Europe. “It’s not possible to talk about the future of the EU i, its monetary union, or its policies if there is no will to stand up for our fundamental values. We are together in the EU because we share some fundamental values”, he stressed.
Click on the names of speakers to watch the individual statement in full.
Council President Donald Tusk stressed his wish to bring together dynamism and unity in the plans approved by European leaders at the latest summit. He sought to give the lie to those who wish to divide the EU, by urging it to “build on what unites us.” He hoped that a consensus would emerge on migration issues by June 2018 despite member states’ differences, that EMU would be strengthened, and that the 27 would maintain their unity in the Brexit talks. He reiterated that whatever scenario comes to pass, “the ball is in the British court.”
Mr Tusk urged the EU to pursue together its reflection on the essence of the territorial, cultural and political community that is the EU, reminding all EU leaders of the need to respect fully the EU’s founding values of democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and minorities.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged member states to speed up the passage of important legislative proposals such as those on common asylum policy, already approved by Parliament, and urged them to put their money where their mouth is, e.g. for the Fund for Africa, where the EU has to spend €2.9 billion, as member states put only €175 million on the table. On Brexit, he reiterated that “no deal is not our working assumption.”
EPP leader Manfred Weber (DE) said progress in the Brexit talks was not sufficient. “We have unity among the 27 (…) and Brexiteers have no plan for the future of their country”. He also urged that action to build a common defence be made more visible to citizens. On Turkey, he said “I welcome the cuts to pre-accession funds. Full EU membership cannot be our aim any more”.
S&D group leader Gianni Pittella (IT) said that besides Brexit, “Europe has other ruptures, from Catalonia to the North of Italy, a sort of egoism of the wealthy. There's nothing bad in wanting more autonomy (...), but not at the expense of solidarity”. -“To avoid a Trumpization of Europe, we need to act now”, he added, stressing that by approving the reform of the Dublin system and the posted workers directive, “the European Parliament is responding to precise demands coming from our citizens”.
ECR leader Syed Kamall (UK) urged the EU to be “more pragmatic and less idealistic” in tackling migration and dealing with Brexit. He was not convinced by a proposal to reform the EU asylum system and suggested focussing instead on successful measures such as closing traffickers’ routes across Mediterranean or the remit of Frontex i.
“We have great plans, huge ambitions, but are we really ready to agree on radical changes to make them happen?” asked ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt (BE). “It is high time to kill the unanimity rule and the endless list of opt-outs and exceptions that create a ‘Europe à la carte’”, he said. The “Spitzenkandidaten” process for electing the Commission President should be maintained, he added.
GUE/NGL leader Gabriele Zimmer (DE) asked the Council whether an agreement on the “leaders’ agenda” meant turning away from the intergovernmental method. “How will Parliament be involved? What are the consequences for inter-institutional cooperation?” she asked, calling for more clarity and transparency. On Brexit, Ms Zimmer said Council must clearly define what “sufficient progress” means.
"Rather than a leaders' agenda, you offer us a calendar of meetings with the topics you want to discuss. (...) The term "followers' agenda" would be more appropriate", Greens/EFA co-chair Philippe Lamberts (BE), told Mr Tusk. He saw an "increasingly striking contrast" between Parliament and the European Council as a "guarantor of immobility".
Raymond Finch (EFDD, UK) expressed regret that the UK government was “conceding” in the Brexit negotiations, instead of standing up for the British people. PM May was “quietly surrendering”:“We will end up neither leaving (the EU) nor sovereign”, he said.
Nicolas Bay (ENF, FR) said that farmers were committing suicide as a result of open trade deals struck by the EU and that the Council position on posted workers was too weak to address social dumping.