20 Oct 2017


Brussels, Brussels Daily

On 19 October, EU leaders discussed migration, digital Europe, defence, and external relations. They adopted conclusions on these four topics.

On 20 October, the European Council (Article 50), in an EU 27 format, reviewed the state of Brexit negotiations and adopted conclusions.

EU leaders also met informally to endorse the Leaders’ Agenda, a concrete work programme to guide EU’s action in the future.

programme to guide EU’s action in the future.


Main results


EU leaders agreed that their “comprehensive, pragmatic and resolute” migration strategy, which aims to restore control of external borders and to reduce arrivals and the number of deaths at sea, was bringing results and should be consolidated.

At the same time they highlighted the need for vigilance on all migration routes and readiness to react to any new trends and developments.

The summit called for further action, including:

  • support for directly affected EU countries
  • strong cooperation with countries of origin and transit, including with Turkey and the Western Balkans
  • further efforts to increase returns
  • applying the necessary leverage by means of EU policies, such as trade or development, to improve return rates and prevent illegal migration

EU leaders also reaffirmed their support for the Schengen system. They said they would get “Back to Schengen” as soon as possible, taking into account security interests of EU countries.

They also pledged to continue talks on the reform of the Dublin system at their summit in December, with a view of reaching a consensus in the first half of 2018.

Infographic – Migration flows: Central Mediterranean route

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Central Mediterranean Route

Illegal arrivals decreased by almost 70% on the Central Mediterranean route in the third quarter of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, thanks to the efforts of the EU and its member states, especially Italy.

“Leaders agreed to offer Prime Minister Gentiloni stronger support for Italy’s work with the Libyan authorities. We have a real chance of closing the Central Mediterranean route”

President Donald Tusk at the press briefing of European Council meeting of 19 October 2017

At the summit the EU leaders called for further efforts, including:

  • working with Libya and its neighbours to boost border controls and support local communities along the migratory routes in Libya
  • increase efforts to establish a permanent EU presence in Libya
  • providing adequate and targeted funding for migration-related projects in North Africa
  • Finding solutions to migratory pressures (background information)

Digital Europe

The European Council stressed that it is “ready to do what it takes for Europe to go digital”, building on the conclusions of the Tallinn Digital Summit of 29 September.

Leaders examined how the EU can seize the opportunities and address the challenges posed by digitalisation. They agreed on a series of priorities to build a successful digital Europe, such as:

  • bringing governments and public sectors fully into the digital age
  • completing the digital single market strategy by the end of 2018
  • building a first rate infrastructure and communications network
  • adopting a common approach to cyber security
  • stepping up efforts to combat terrorism and online crime
  • achieving an effective and fair taxation system fit for the digital era

The European Council called on the institutions to step up the legislative work, and on the member states to implement EU legislation and take all the necessary measures to shape the new digital era.


EU leaders resumed discussions on the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) on defence. Member states wishing to participate in PESCO are encouraged to inform the Council and the High Representative of their intentions. This will allow PESCO to be launched by the end of the year.

Regarding the European defence industrial development programme, the European Council called for an agreement to be reached within the Council by the end of this year.

The European Council also welcomed the launch of the trial run of the coordinated annual review on defence (CARD) aiming to enhance defence cooperation in the EU.

External relations

The European Council called on DPRK to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, stressing that lasting peace and denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula must be achieved through peaceful means.

The European Council also reaffirmed its full commitment to the Iran nuclear deal and endorsed the statement by the Foreign Affairs Council of 16 October 2017.

Infographic – Leaders’ Agenda

See full infographic


Leaders’ Agenda

On Friday morning, leaders endorsed the Leaders’ Agenda during an informal breakfast.

“Today we discussed the Leaders’ Agenda for our work in the next two years, and I am happy to have received univocal support of all the EU leaders to go ahead with this plan”

President Donald Tusk at the press briefing on the European Council meetings and the Leaders’ Agenda

The Leaders’ Agenda is a concrete work programme to guide EU action until June 2019. It was prepared by President Tusk in consultation with all the EU heads of state and government.

Brexit negotiations

The European Council (Article 50), in an EU 27 format, called for more progress regarding citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and financial obligations. EU27 leaders agreed to start internal preparations for the second phase of the Brexit talks.

“The negotiations go on, and we will continue to approach them positively and constructively. And as we are all working actively on a deal, I hope we will be able to move to the second phase of our talks in December”

President Donald Tusk at the press briefing on the European Council meetings and the Leaders’ Agenda

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