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    EU identifies challenges ahead of Summit in Brussels

    Action to stop massacres in Syria, implement migration policies and border controls, and ensure a balanced approach to trade deals while defending EU industry are the key challenges that EU heads of state or government should tackle at their 20-21 October meeting in Brussels

    A debate on the preparation of the European Council meeting took place yesterday (5 October) in the European Parliament with Parliament’s political group leaders, the Slovak Council Presidency and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

    Ivan Korčok, Slovak Secretary of State, outlined the Presidency’s ambitions to overcome divisions amongst EU leaders over EU trade policy and migration management and announced a broad political debate on Russia.

    Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EU Commission, expects the European Council to agree on concrete actions to pave the way for “digital Europe” and to implement agreed migration policies.

    Bulgaria will receive € 108 Mio to put EU border and Coast guards in place and 130 additional staff, he recalled. He called on member states to contribute to the EU Fund for Africa set up by the Commission in order to help prevent economic migration and save people from perishing at sea.

    Juncker added that he wants the trade agreement with Canada (CETA) to enter into force within a few months and promised a separate declaration “taking on board the concerns of all member states”. He added that he favors strong defense instruments in trade relations, in particular to protect Europe’s steel industry.

    “We have an issue as far as trade is concerned,” he said. “I am not a blind free trader, but I know that trade is essential. EUR 1 billion more trade with the outside world leads to the creation of 14,000 jobs.”

    Manfred Weber, (EPP, DE) welcomed UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement that the UK would trigger Article 50 to start “Brexit” negotiations in March 2017.

    “If one wants to leave, one should not block the further deepening of the EU”. The four freedoms of the EU, including free movement of people, are not negotiable, he said.

    Weber blamed Russia’s President Putin and Syria’s President, “mass murderer” Bashar al- Assad, for causing the “biggest humanitarian tragedy ever since Sarajevo’s siege” and called on EU leaders to “stop the madness”. On the Nord Stream II pipeline project, “This is no time for doing business with Putin”, he added.

    Gianni Pittella (S&D, IT), criticised the British Prime Minister for announcing that her government will scrap EU laws, as this would have a bad impact on EU citizens living in the country.

    He called for an expansionist economic policy “to avoid falling back into recession” and a strong industrial policy to avoid falling “victim to multinationals (…) who exploit workers”. Referring to progress on CETA and doubts on TTIP, he stressed that trade agreements should never lower EU social, environmental and health standards.

    Finally, Pittella called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria to allow humanitarian aid.

    The Brussels Times (Source: European Parliament)