European leaders yesterday (14 December) discussed how to relieve the humanitarian tragedy in Aleppo, sanctions against Russia and the EU’s security and defense capabilities. Ivan Korcok, Slovakia’s State Secretary for European Affairs, addressed the tragic situation in Aleppo and pledged that the EU would work hard to put an end to the breaches of international law there. Manfred Weber (EPP, Germany) added that “Aleppo is hell on earth and we must act now to deliver humanitarian aid and discuss taking up refugees,” and added that “Putin has blood on his hands”, hence suggesting that prolonging sanctions against Moscow would be the right signal.
While Mr Korcok said that the EU must boost its internal and external security and increase cooperation with NATO and Turkey to tame migration, Mr Weber directly called on Council to freeze accession talks with Turkey, as the country is “moving in the wrong direction.” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was more specific when he reminded the Member States they need to double the €44 billion external investment fund to help fight the root causes of migration. He also urged the Member States to show ambition in security area by setting up the European Defense Union, which would lead to the pooling of the military equipment, harmonization of the standards and the creation of a common basis for research and industry through a European defense fund.
S&D group leader Gianni Pittella urged the EU to enter “a new phase“ especially in the aftermath of Brexit and the US elections. Mr Pittella stressed that most EU priority initiatives were stagnating in the Council and that “each delay has direct consequences for people’s lives. […] We need a diversity of political positions, which give democracy its richness. The structured cooperation of the last two and a half years is over.”