Last week, the Heads of State and Government of the European Union gathered in Brussels, as part of the European Summit of the 19 and 20 March 2015. The European Council meets at least twice per semester, and is aimed at setting the direction and the priorities of the European Union.
Chaired by Donald Tusk, who succeeded Herman Van Rompuy last December as President of the European Council, the summit was an opportunity for the Heads of State to put forward a number of priorities in three major areas: energy policy, external relations, and economy and growth.
Energy policy is a key priority of the European Union since the new Commission came into power. The framework of the Energy Union was adopted by the Commission on February 25, and a report will be presented to the European Council before December. The Heads of State highlighted some priorities to be implemented. Among them, the question of the development of a strategy for innovation in various fields such as storage of electricity and improving the energy efficiency of housing and transport, or the issue of energy security through the establishment of partnerships with producer countries, were mentioned.
The Summit also addressed the climate issue. The 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) to be held in Paris in December is one of the major events of the year not to be missed for the European Union, which has become one of the most active powers in the matter. To adopt an international agreement on the fight against climate change after the difficulties encountered in the recent international conferences on this subject, European leaders have advocated the implementation of a true “European climate diplomacy” and have encouraged the development of solutions for financing and capacity building by the month of December.
They also addressed major issues regarding external relations. They discussed the situation in Ukraine, and declared that they would support the implementation process of the Minsk Agreement as well as the free trade agreement with Ukraine.
The leaders also stressed the importance of the European Neighbourhood Policy (implemented via the ENPI), both with southern and eastern partners. While a summit partly dedicated to the Mediterranean Partnership will be held in October, the summit of the 19th and 20th of March was the occasion to reiterate the EU’s commitment to the Eastern Partnership and the desire to develop it in the following areas : State capacity-building, mobility, interconnections and market opportunities.
Economy and growth
The third component of the summit concerned the economy and growth, and primarily the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). The Heads of state expressed their willingness to reach an agreement “by June,” so that the Fund “can be fully deployed from mid-2015″, while advocating an interconnection between this Fund, other EU and EIB programmes, and national development banks.
Finally, concerning the Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership (TTIP), an agreement must be reached “by the end of the year”, European leaders stated. Aware of the EU citizens reluctance concerning the partnership, they expressed the need for Member States and the Commission to “communicate the benefits” of TTIP and “to enhance dialogue with civil society” about that particular matter.