EU leaders to discuss refugees, Brexit in 2015 final summit

European leaders set to meet in Brussels for end of year summit where refugee crisis and British referandum on EU membership will be discussed

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker holds a joint news conference ahead a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 17, 2015

European Union (EU) leaders are to gather in Brussels on Thursday for an end-of-year summit which will be focused on the refugee crisis and a possible British exit from the European Union.

The other key points of two-day summit will be border controls, single market measures, energy, climate change, and the economic union of EU countries.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday that in his summit invitation letter the top agenda of the meeting will be regaining control over Europe’s external borders.

He continued his words by stressing the European value of freedom and said Europe "will always provide shelter for those in danger."

"The protection of our external borders is not intended to scare off those who flee wars or persecution. Europe is a community of freedom and will always provide shelter for those in danger." he said.

In the aftermath of the deadly Paris attacks some European leaders expressed their concerns that some refugees being forced to flee their countries to seek a safe life could pose a threat to Europe and called for tightening external borders.

However, the EU Commission plans to adress the issue of terrorism and migration seperately, with President Jean-Claude Juncker saying many refugees are fleeing from "terrorism" themselves.

"We Europeans no longer have many borders. We have one and we have a shared responsibility to protect it," Juncker said on Wednesday.

Fair deal to avoid 'Brexit'

Ahead of the historic EU meeting, Juncker said in a news conference that the bloc was seeking a fair deal for Britain as well as the other 27 EU countries.

"We want a fair deal with Britain and this fair deal has to be a fair deal with other countries," Juncker said.

"We'll enter the concrete and vital phase of negotiations with our British colleagues. The Commission is ready to look for other options than the single one proposed by the British prime minister and I'm quite convinced that we will find a solution to that highly complicated question."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also underlined the “enormous importance” of keeping Britain in the European Union while stating that Germnay was not ready to support all the demands made by the UK.

British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to negotiate four key areas of his reform plan including limiting benefits for refugees and ensuring market protection for non-EU countries during the summit. The final negotiation is expected to take place in February's EU summit.

By the end of 2017 Britain will hold an in-out referendum on whether to continue its EU membership.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Tusk told reporters that Cameron’s renegotiation proposals were unacceple, adding that - however - he was ready to work together with the UK to find solutions.

“Then we will have a real chance to strike a deal in February," he said.

'Europe should create system of solidarity with Turkey'

Leaders of the European Union will discuss the European Commision’s programme to resettle Syrian refugees and also "create a system of solidarity and responsibility with Turkey."

The scheme presented on Tuesday invites EU states to host refugees in Turkey on a voluntary basis and in accordance with their capability.

Turkey currently hosts about 2.5 million refugees, according to a statement by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan on Wednesday.

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will also attend the summit where refugee resettlement will be discussed. On the first day of summit he will hold a meeting with Merkel.

On November, Merkel called on EU members to act together in order to Europe’s growing refugee crisis and help Turkey by sharing the enormous refugee burden.

"Particularly, we need a strong partnership with Turkey in order to prevent asylum-seekers falling into an illegal status," she said.

TRTWorld and agencies