European Council conclusions on security and defence
Internal security and the fight against terrorism
1. The European Council strongly condemns the recent terrorist attacks and stands united and firm in the fight against terrorism, hatred and violent extremism. These acts have strengthened our resolve to cooperate at EU level so as to enhance our internal security: we will fight the spread of radicalisation online, coordinate our work on preventing and countering violent extremism and addressing the ideology, thwart the financing of terrorism, facilitate swift and targeted exchanges of information between law enforcement authorities, including with trusted partners, and improve the interoperability between databases.
2. Industry has its own responsibility to help combat terrorism and crime online. Building on the work of the EU Internet Forum, the European Council expects industry to establish an Industry Forum and to develop new technology and tools to improve the automatic detection and removal of content that incites to terrorist acts. This should be complemented by the relevant legislative measures at EU level, if necessary. It calls for addressing the challenges posed by systems that allow terrorists to communicate in ways that competent authorities cannot access, including end-to-end encryption, while safeguarding the benefits these systems bring for the protection of privacy, data and communication. The European Council considers that effective access to electronic evidence is essential to combating serious crime and terrorism and that, subject to appropriate safeguards, the availability of data should be secured.
3. The agreement on the Entry/Exit System, which is expected shortly, and the finalisation before the end of the year of a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will pave the way for their rapid implementation, thus enhancing external border control and internal security while taking into account specific situations in Member States which still do not fully apply the Schengen acquis. In that context, the European Council invites the Commission to prepare, as soon as possible, draft legislation enacting the proposals made by the High Level Expert Group on interoperability.
4. We need to accelerate our collective efforts to share knowledge on foreign terrorist fighters as well as home-grown radicalised individuals and take forward policy and legal measures to manage the threat.
5. The European Council underlines the importance of providing support to the victims of terror acts.
External security and defence
6. The European Council reiterates its commitment to strengthening EU cooperation on external security and defence so as to protect the Union and its citizens and contribute to peace and stability in its neighbourhood and beyond. Together with all its diplomatic and civil capabilities, the EU brings a unique mix of possibilities to this enterprise. As reflected in the Council conclusions of 18 May and 19 June 2017, significant progress has been achieved in implementing the EU Global Strategy in the area of Security and Defence and the Joint Declaration signed in Warsaw by EU and NATO leaders. The transatlantic relationship and EU-NATO cooperation remain key to our overall security, allowing us to respond to evolving security threats, including cyber, hybrid and terrorism. The European Council welcomes the establishment in Helsinki of a European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats. The high-level conference on security and defence held in Prague on 9 June 2017 underlined both the complementarity between the EU and NATO and the need to step up European efforts to strengthen our defence related research, capabilities and operations.
7. The joint development of capability projects commonly agreed by Member States to fill the existing major shortfalls and develop the technologies of the future is crucial to fulfil the level of ambition of the EU approved by the European Council in December 2016. The European Council welcomes the Commission’s communication on a European Defence Fund, composed of a research window and a capability window, and is looking forward to its swift operationalisation. It calls for rapid agreement on the proposal for a European Defence Industrial Development Programme with a view to its swift implementation, before more comprehensive programmes can be envisaged in the medium term. The European Council calls on Member States to identify suitable capability projects for the European Defence Fund and for the European Defence Industrial Development Programme. The European Council invites the Member States to further work on options for the joint procurement of capabilities within the European Defence Fund based on sound financing mechanisms. The objective is to deliver capabilities, ensure a competitive, innovative and balanced basis for Europe’s defence industry across the EU, including by cross border cooperation and participation of SMEs, and to contribute to greater European defence cooperation, by exploiting synergies and mobilising EU support in addition to Member States’ financing. European defence industrial development will also require EU support for SME and intermediate (mid-cap) investments in the area of security and defence. In this respect, the European Council recalls its invitation to the European Investment Bank to examine steps with a view to supporting investments in defence research and development activities.
8. To strengthen Europe’s security and defence in today’s challenging geopolitical environment and to help reach the level of ambition of the EU expressed in the EU Global Strategy, the European Council agrees on the need to launch an inclusive and ambitious Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). A common list of criteria and binding commitments, fully in line with Articles 42(6) and 46 TEU and Protocol 10 to the Treaty – including with a view to the most demanding missions – will be drawn up by Member States within three months, with a precise timetable and specific assessment mechanisms, in order to enable Member States which are in a position to do so to notify their intentions to participate without delay. This work has to be consistent with Member States’ national defence planning and commitments agreed within NATO and the UN by Member States concerned. Concrete collaborative projects and initiatives should also be identified in support of PESCO’s common goals, commitments and criteria.
9. To strengthen the EU’s rapid response toolbox, the European Council agrees that the deployment of Battlegroups should be borne as a common cost by the EU-managed Athena mechanism on a permanent basis. It also urges the Council to speed up its work on greater responsiveness of the civilian crisis management.
10. The European Council will come back to these issues at one of its next meetings.
Remarks by President Donald Tusk ahead of the European Council meetings
Firstly, leaders discussed terrorism, which is still a major threat. We are fully determined to protect our people. To that end, the European Council agreed to deepen our efforts against foreign terrorist fighters. We want to finalise works on the new border information sharing systems this year. The European Council have also agreed on the need to cooperate closely with the online industry. We are calling on social media companies to do whatever is necessary to prevent the spread of terrorist material on the internet. In practice, this means developing new tools to detect and remove such materials automatically. And, if need be, we are also ready to adopt relevant legislation.
Secondly, leaders agreed on the need to set up permanent European cooperation in defence. It is a historic step, because such cooperation will allow the EU to move towards deeper integration in defence. Our aim is for it to be ambitious and inclusive, so every EU country is invited to join. Within three months, Member States will agree a common list of criteria and commitments, together with concrete capability projects, in order to take this cooperation off the ground.
Later this evening we will take stock of the geopolitical situation around Europe. I will share with the leaders my assessment following recent international meetings, including with Presidents Trump and Erdoğan as well as the G7 and EU-China summits. I will also propose to the leaders that we send a clear signal on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Traditionally, the German Chancellor and the French President will report on the situation in Ukraine, and the latest state of play on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. This should allow us to extend the economic sanctions against Russia for another six months.
Finally, this evening Prime Minister May will inform us on her intentions as regards the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. It must be clear that the European Council is not a forum for the Brexit negotiations, we have our negotiators for this, and so leaders will only take note of these intentions. My goal for tonight is that 27 EU leaders endorse the procedure for choosing new locations for the two UK-based agencies, by which I mean the banking and medicines agencies.
This is the 80th European Council in which I have participated as Prime Minister or European Council President. But never before have I had such a strong belief that things are going in a better direction.
Our optimism should still be extremely cautious, but we have good reasons to talk about it. Among them are: economic growth in each and every country of the EU, falling unemployment with the highest number of employed people ever recorded, the financial agreement with Greece, the surge of pro-European sentiment in recent weeks according to the polls, the election defeats of anti-European parties, and victories of political leaders who stand 100% for the EU. From Bulgaria and Austria to the Netherlands, and – of course – France.
We have also managed to maintain political unity of the EU in the face of multiple threats and challenges. My talks today with President Poroshenko are another proof of what I have heard from all my interlocutors in the recent weeks. From President Trump to Prime Minister Abe, from Prime Minister Li to Senegal’s President Macky Sall, from President Morales to the new President of South Korea – they have all highlighted that for them – despite Brexit – the EU remains the most important partner. And that despite gloomy predictions, it is Europe that is again becoming a stable and positive point of reference for the whole world.
However, we cannot be complacent or naïve. We have to prove to the people that we are capable of restoring control over events which overwhelm and sometimes even terrify us. Last year we agreed that the EU will protect our people against security threats, especially terrorism, illegal migration and uncontrolled globalisation, and we must continue to deliver. Therefore, during the upcoming European Council, I will propose we move further on our policy response in these three areas.
And finally. As we know, the Brexit negotiations started 3 days ago. It is a most difficult process, for which the EU is well prepared. We can hear different predictions, coming from different people, about the possible outcome of these negotiations: hard Brexit, soft Brexit or no deal. Some of my British friends have even asked me whether Brexit could be reversed, and whether I could imagine an outcome where the UK stays part of the EU. I told them that in fact the European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve. So, who knows? You may say I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one.