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News

BRUSSELS: EU SUMMIT ENDS WITH STRONGEST CONCLUSIONS ON ILLEGAL MIGRATION SO FAR, AND WESTERN BALKAN COUNTRIES ARE REQUESTED TO URGENTLY TAKE FURTHER STEPS ON ISSUE OF HARMONIZING VISA POLICY



BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 10 (ONASA-China) – Leaders of the EU member states on Friday supported the European Commission’s industrial green plan in principle, requested that it prepare specific legislative proposals next month, and advocated stronger protection of external borders to prevent illegal migration.
Heads of state or government gathered on Thursday at an extraordinary summit where the main figure was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who for the first time personally participated in the summit of EU leaders and “stole” all the attention.
Zelensky said that in order to win against the Russian aggressor, his country needs artillery, ammunition, modern tanks, long-range missiles and modern fighter planes.
He also revealed that he received a promise from some leaders about the delivery of the aircraft.
But French President Emmanuel Macron warns that even if the allies decide to send fighter jets, “it will not happen in the next few weeks”.
Zelensky expressed his desire for his country to start accession negotiations with the EU during this year, but the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, told him “that the road to EU membership is going to be long and difficult.”
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, when asked by a journalist whether Ukraine can open accession negotiations with the EU this year, pointed out that there is no “fixed time frame”, but that it is a process in which reforms should be carried out and the mutually agreed goals.
The summit was initially supposed to be devoted to the issue of the global competitiveness of the European economy and migration, and the leaders only started dealing with these topics after Zelensky’s departure.
Although the summit was scheduled to last for two days, the leaders still managed to reach an agreement on migration and economic competitiveness around 03:00 on Friday, ending the meeting.
The leaders gave their support in principle to the plan presented by the European Commission ten days ago, which should be the European response to the American Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which foresees large subsidies and tax breaks in the sector of renewable sources and clean technologies.
In the EU, they fear that these big incentives could push investors to flee Europe to the US.
The essence of that plan is more flexible rules on state aid so that member states can more easily and simply subsidize production in the sectors of green technology and renewable sources. But strict rules on state aid were created to ensure a level playing field for everyone in the EU’s single market, so that some companies from richer countries that have the ability to encourage them from their budgets would not be in an undeservedly better position than others.
Therefore, it is insisted that, in the short term, the looser rules on state aid should be temporary, until the end of 2025, and that incentives should be directed strictly towards technologies with zero greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to ensure European competitiveness in the medium term, the European Sovereignty Fund is mentioned, from which production with net zero emissions would be encouraged, but it is an open question how this fund would be filled – by new joint borrowing or redistribution of unused funds from existing funds.
“The European Union will strengthen its strategic sovereignty and equip its economic, industrial and technological base for a green and digital transition. It will deepen the single market and ensure equal conditions for everyone both within the EU and globally,” the text of the conclusions says.
“It is necessary to make the procedures simpler, faster and more predictable and to enable the rapid distribution of targeted, temporary and proportional support, including through tax incentives, in those sectors that are strategic for the green transition and that are adversely affected by foreign subsidies or high energy prices,” he says. in the conclusions, but it is added that “the integrity of the single market and equal conditions for all must be preserved”.
The commission was tasked with preparing concrete legislative proposals on global competitiveness that the leaders of the member states will discuss at their regular spring summit on March 23 and 24. As for the fund for European sovereignty, it should come up in the middle of this year as part of the review of the EU’s seven-year budget.
And while Germany and France agree on looser rules on state aid, they differ on joint borrowing. Paris supports this, while Berlin points out that a large part of the funds from the EU’s next generation fund, the part that was designed to help with soft loans, has remained unused.
The harshest text on illegal migration so far
After a heated discussion, the leaders of the member states managed to agree on conclusions on migration, in which they took the toughest position so far regarding the protection of external borders and the issue of the return of illegal migrants.
One of the burning questions was whether the construction of walls and fences on the borders could be financed with European funds. Austria insisted on this the most, but a good number of member states oppose it. At the end, the text of the conclusions mentions “infrastructure”, but does not specify what kind.
“The European Council calls on the Commission to immediately mobilize European funds to help Member States strengthen border protection capacities and infrastructure, surveillance assets, including aerial surveillance and equipment,” the conclusions said.
Regarding the return of migrants who are not entitled to international protection, a unique, comprehensive and effective approach is required.
“Swift action is needed to ensure effective returns from the European Union and from third countries along the routes to countries of origin and transit, leveraging all relevant EU policies, instruments and tools, including diplomacy, development aid, trade and visas, as well as opportunities for legal migration,” the conclusions say.
The countries of the Western Balkans are asked to “urgently take” further steps regarding the harmonization of visa policy.
Normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo
The leaders welcomed the EU-US proposal offered to Serbia and Kosovo for the normalization of mutual relations. They call on Belgrade and Pristina to “take advantage of this historic opportunity”, which paves the way for their European perspective. They also call for the implementation of all agreements reached so far within the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, including the community of municipalities with a Serbian majority.
Earthquake in Turkey and Syria
The leaders expressed their condolences to the families of the victims of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. They point out that they immediately sent 1,600 rescue team members to Turkey and express their readiness for further assistance to the affected areas. The initiative of the Swedish presidency and the Commission to organize an international donor conference to support people in Turkey and Syria was supported.