Historic Decision at the EU Summit
The European Council has paved the way for EU entry negotiations with Ukraine and MoldovaJanuary 07th, 2024
Good news for Ukraine and Moldova: at its final meeting of the year, the European Council decided that EU entry negotiations with both countries can begin shortly. In a press conference held after the end of the EU Summit, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke of a “historic decision”.
The Council’s resolution was “a strong message of support and a perspective for Ukraine,” the Federal Chancellor wrote on X, adding that one thing was clear: “These countries are part of the European family.” Even before the summit, Scholz campaigned for accession negotiations to begin, as well as for further support for Ukraine.
Progress with Georgia and Bosnia-Herzegovina
In addition, the European Council granted candidate status to Georgia, based on the agreement that further reforms will be implemented. The heads of state and government are willing to take up entry negotiations for Bosnia-Herzegovina as soon as the necessary criteria are sufficiently met, according to the European Council’s conclusions document. The Federal Chancellor expressed confidence “that we will make a decision to this effect at our meeting in March”.
He also pointed out that he was personally committed to speeding up the accession process for the Western Balkan states. After all, this region had been waiting for 20 years, he said.
Negotiations about financial framework
Another item on the agenda of the Council’s meeting on 14 and 15 December was the targeted adjustment at the halfway point of the seven-year financial framework. This review involves a check as to whether there have been any unforeseen developments that make adjustments to the financial framework necessary. The participants found a solution that was supported by 26 member states. “One country has refused to agree so far,” the Federal Chancellor said. The heads of state and government will therefore meet again at the start of next year. The Federal Chancellor said that he would be happy “to formally take this decision with all 27 EU members”.
This agreement concerns support for Ukraine “with up to 50 billion euros worth of loans and subsidies over the next four years,” the Federal Chancellor explained. Even before the summit, Scholz said that the goal of this initiative was to create a basis “for Ukraine to continue its resistance against Russia’s aggression”.
In addition, the EU is to provide more money to fight migration and aid the accession process of the Western Balkan states. Planning provides for these endeavours to be largely funded by restructuring the existing budget. “This is important to me,” the Federal Chancellor said, adding that “all member states must consolidate their budgets in times like these”.
The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is an EU planning tool for limiting spending in the medium term. It is drawn up for seven years and determines the upper limit of financial resources available to the EU between 2021 and 2027. The MFF also determines the maximum amount that can be spent each year and the amount available for each spending category. This means that it determines the structure and prioritisation of EU spending.
Consultations on the situation in the Middle East
Another topic discussed by the Council was the situation in the Middle East. Scholz reported that the terror organisation Hamas’ barbaric attacks on Israel were consistently condemned in the strongest terms. The Federal Chancellor expressed his conviction that a two-state solution is the only way for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace.
Quick agreement required on EU asylum reform
As a final point, the Federal Chancellor used the last EU Summit of the year as an opportunity to make progress with regard to the EU asylum reform. It was undisputed, he said, that a large number of irregular migrants were seeking to come to Europe. The interior ministers’ agreement to bring about a reform of the European asylum system based on solidarity was therefore a great success, he continued, adding that the last step necessary now was to quickly come to an agreement with the European Parliament. The Federal Chancellor was optimistic after the summit: “This will be possible, if everyone involved is willing to compromise a little!”