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Working Group H , Friday 28th January, 10-11 am

Speakers: Gianni Bonvicini (Istituto Affari Internazionali), Christian Franck (Université Catholique de Louvain/ Université Saint Louis), Suzana Elena Anghel Gavrilescu (European Parliament, Parliamentary Research Service)

Rapporteur: Johannes Wolters

On Friday, January 29th 2016, Gianni Bonvicini (Istituto Affari Internazionali) and Christian Franck (Université Catholique de Louvain/ Université Saint Louis) examined European Council and Foreign Affairs Council relations with respect to the specific cases of the current migration crisis and the Neighbourhood Policy. The working group was chaired by H.E. Ambassador Poul Skytte Christoffersen and commented by Suzana Elena Anghel Gavrilescu (European Parliament, Parliamentary Research Service).

Christian Franck began his remarks by stressing the importance of the European Council, particularly of the big member states, in the EU’s aspiration to become a relevant actor in foreign affairs. According to Franck, the first permanent President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy seized the prerogative of external representation under Art. 15 TEU as early as 2011: when speaking in front of the United Nations General Assembly, van Rompuy took over the external representation which was formerly executed by the rotating presidency’s Foreign Affairs Minister – a situation that was at times perceived as problematic. However, according to Franck, both the Ukraine crisis and the war in Libya had shown that member states still retain a dominant position both in Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and in Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP): the EU-Battle Groups were not deployed, thus proved to be “paper tigers” and the Minsk agreements were primarily negotiated within the so-called Normandy format.

Gianni Bonvicini discussed the reasons for the underperformance of the European Council during the migration/ refugee crisis - in sharp contrast to its performance during the euro crisis. He started off with stressing the divergence in the framing and the perception of the arrival of refugees: while Merkel publicly speaks of “economic advantages”, most other leaders worry about “economic sustainability”. Moreover, according to Bonvicini, the influx of refugees has put pressure on European institutions formerly considered irrevocable, namely Schengen, the protection of Human Rights, and intra-European solidarity. Consequently, new splits and sub-groups within the EU have crystalized and European leaders have revoked both the previously adopted relocation scheme and have suspended the Dublin II Regulation. According to Bonvicini, the main reason for the lack of constructive working of the European Council are to be seen in the absence of an institutional set up that would allow for a management of the influx of refugees/ migrants. In order to cope with this crisis, the EU should therefore integrate migration into its new European Security Strategy (ESS) and create a new supranational entity or agency which could contribute to a collective management of the crisis.

In the following debate, Suzana Elena Anghel Gavrilescu commented with reference to Christian Franck’s contribution on the gradual emergence of the CSDP. With reference to the 2012 and 2013 Defence Summits, she called in to question as to what extent the goals proclaimed at these summits, i.e. common visibility, capability development, and a single defence market, had been successfully dealt with by the Foreign Affairs Council. Jan Werts questioned the power shift from the portfolio councils to the European Council. Hereupon, Chair Poul Skytte Christoffersen commented that Foreign Ministries should indeed reassert their competencies, since their meetings have become a mere question of a few hours with little to no real discussions among Foreign Affairs ministers taking place. Furthermore, he stressed the importance of third countries, particularly Turkey, in solving the refugee crisis. All speakers agreed that the introduction of the permanent Presidency is a clear step forward.

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