Further cooperation on tackling terrorism and a European Defense Fund was agreed upon during the first session of Thursday’s European Summit, as the presidents of the European Council Donald Tusk and of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters.
Ahead of the EU-27 Brexit dinner, the first part of the agenda that was discussed concluded to a rather easy agreement as EU heads of state and government managed to tick the boxes more than an hour earlier than it was initially estimated.
According to Tusk, Europe’s leaders had a big discussion on terrorism. “We are fully determined to protect our people,” said the EU Council president, suggesting that the bloc has agreed to deepen efforts in the direction of tackling foreign fighters, by all means.
Especially on the digital side, the EU has decided to apply more pressure to social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter “to do whatever necessary” to tackle the phenomenon. According to Tusk, this even means developing new tools to detect and remove terrorist material automatically. The European Council stands ready to adopt any legislation needed to address the problem.
As for the defense, EU leaders reached an agreement on the need to set up Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). “It is a historic step, because such cooperation will allow the EU to move towards deeper integration in defence,” said Tusk, setting the agenda for the next three months when the EU heads of state and government are expected to agree upon a common list of criteria and commitments, together with concrete capability projects.
According to the conclusions adopted but the EU leaders, the work that will be done in three months, has to be consistent with member states’ national defense planning and commitments agreed to within NATO and the UN. “Concrete collaborative projects and initiatives should also be identified in support of PESCO’s common goals, commitments, and criteria.”
Juncker seconded Tusk on defense, adding that the Lisbon Treaty provides the EU with all instruments in order to achieve a closer defense cooperation. “We have put the agenda forward,” added Juncker calling PESCO the “sleeping princess of the Lisbon Treaty”. “The princess is now awakening because over the last few months we have put forward all the proposals which relate to Europe of defense.”
As for the European Defence Fund, Juncker welcomed the agreement over its creation as “in Europe, there are 178 types of weapons systems whereas the US has 30. There are 17 types of tanks in Europe but the US has only one. We are spending half but the efficiency is 15%,” while the 80% of research and 90% of procurement is still done on a strictly national basis.
EUCO’s dialogue with music
After Tusk’s “you may say I am a dreamer but I am not the only one,” earlier in the day, Juncker answered whether he is a John Lennon or a Paul McCartney fan. “I never have illusions because I don’t want to lose them,” answered Juncker, while Tusk remained at his position.
“You can totally feel the difference between illusions and dreams,” said Tusk, to add that “politics without dreams are nightmares”. The Polish politician further added that even if some of his political dreams have come true. “This is the best art of politics, that everything is possible. Concluding with his thoughts over Brexit, Tusk said that he remains a realist and this is the reason why the negotiations should start as positively as possible, adding that he prefers John Lennon’s music.
But Tusk and Juncker were not left alone. President Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania insisted relations would remain close and tweeted the on Brexit: “Ain’t no mountain high enough”.