The leaders of 27 EU member countries, leaving out the United Kingdom, met in Bratislava last Friday (16 September), to set a new course for the Union. Angela Merkela, German Chancellor, said that the EU was in a critical condition and urged Member States to “ show with our actions that we can get better”. The bloc had to improve “in the domain of security, internal and external security, the fight against terrorism, the cooperation in the field of defense”, as well as defense and jobs, she said.
The overall main topics on the agenda were the refugee crisis, the defense union and the state of the Union in general. The summit ended with a declaration and a roadmap, which both highlighted the goal of dealing with the uncontrolled influx of refugees to the EU and protection of its external borders. Moreover, the EU leaders promised to channel €160 million to Bulgaria, which is bearing the brunt of the crisis, to help secure its borders.
However, despite the general focus on security, Council President Donald Tusk, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Slovak Premier Robert Fico, who hosted the meeting, sent straightforward messages to the UK towards the end of the summit. They reminded that the EU treaties were clearly stipulating that the interests of the remaining Member States must be protected and not those of the leaving country. “It’s not against the UK, but it’s an important guideline,” Donald Tusk said.
The most recent information regarding Article 50 from the UK government is that it is very unlikely that London will trigger it this year. The process of leaving the EU might be started in January or February next year but the Council President said that the EU had “no choice“ but wait for the UK to start the process.