The last EU summit showed what is the biggest problem of EU countries. Prioritising. Instead of talking about really important things most of the summit and its “extra time” were devoted to a secondary problem. Yes, you read it right. The question of the UK staying or not in the EU is currently of secondary importance. The existence of the EU will not depend of the British staying or leaving but it depends on the (common) solution to the refugee crisis and its causes in Syria, the Middle East and Africa.
What did we get out of the summit? Regarding the refugee crisis the heads of state and government reviewed the past “actions”, stressed the need to fully implement the already decided measures (EU-Turkey agreement included) and agreed to continue with the preparation for the next summit, where, based on more detailed evaluation, they will decide new measures.
The talks about the refugee crisis (during which they assessed also the current situation in Syria and Libia) were held during the first part of the summit and during part of the working dinner. The latter however soon shifted to the main topic of the summit – the new deal that would allow Britain to have a special status inside the EU
THE BRITISH “REFORM” DEAL
The final deal (a complete review of the British requests, Tusk’s proposal and the final deal is available in the review prepared by POLITICO) is quite similar to the proposal presented by Tusk at the beginning of the month. Regarding economic governance was decided that the EU has several currencies (not only the Euro), that non-Euro countries can’t impede further integration and that can’t be responsible for bailouts. However, a single non-Euro country will be able to request a discussion within the Council if a law may affect their financial stability.
In the field of competitiveness the countries agreed to fully implement and strengthen the EU internal market and to take concrete steps towards better regulation. Also in the field of sovereignty the final deal resembles the draft. The concept of ever closer union doesn’t apply to the UK and at the same time is recognized that the UK is not committed to further integration.
As expected the most difficult part was the one regarding social benefits of EU citizens working in another EU country. The agreement foresees that the child benefits will be indexed to the standard of the country where the child resides (the indexation of current holders will be applied only from 2020), while the emergency brake would allow countries to limit non-contributory in-work benefits for new comers for up to 4 years. The authorisation would have a limited duration during a period of seven years.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL?
Despite the agreement Brexit is not yet avoided for sure. After convincing his fellow leaders, David Cameron faces now a bigger challenge – convince Britons who will be deciding on the UK’s permanence within the EU on a referendum scheduled on the 23rd of June. The result of the referendum is still very unpredictable.
Even if Cameron obtained the support of several members of its cabinet (comprising the Home Secretary Theresa May), he lost the support of the very popular mayor of London Boris Johnson, who on Sunday said that will vote to leave the EU.
If the negotiations were successful will be therefore known after the referendum. Now is up to the British people to decide where they want to be. The European Commission already stated that will not participate or interfere in the referendum campaign. For sure it is a good decision as any commentary from Brussels may be wrongly understood in London.
BREXIT – THE BEGINNING ON THE END OF THE EU?
For a lot of people Brexit would represent the beginning of the end of the EU. The Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Subotka already warned that if the British referendum will be successful, a similar debate could happen also in the Czech Republic. However, for the future of the EU and its member states is more important how they will resolve the refugee crisis. Despite the protests happening in the recent weeks, the refugees will not stop coming. They will be coming at least until the causes will not be solved.
If the presidents of the European Council and the Commission would put the same efforts they used to upheld the UK requests to convince the member states to adopt and implement an EU asylum policy, the EU and its citizens would be in a better position.
Instead, our leaders last week only lost a lot of time, as they haven’t achieve anything. The refugee crisis is continuing and Brexit is not prevented. But no surprise. We are already used to such empty summits.