On 18 February, the two-day meeting of the European Council in Brussels began with discussions on migration and the UK's relationship with the EU. Negotiations on the settlement for the UK will continue on the second day of the meeting.
In the context of migration, the European Council emphasised that the full and speedy implementation of the EU-Turkey Action Plan remains a priority for stemming migration flows and tackling traffickers' and smugglers' networks. The European Council acknowledged that Turkey had taken several steps forward, but noted that the flows of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey remain much too high.
"Concerning the management of migration, we must find solutions already in the spring. Insufficient management of the external borders jeopardises the functioning of the entire Schengen area," said Prime Minister Juha Sipilä.
The European Council stressed the importance of the control of the Schengen area and the application of the Schengen Borders Code. The meeting welcomed NATO's decision to assist in the conduct of reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance in the Aegean Sea to reduce illegal border crossings.
Additionally, the European Council highlighted the importance of remaining vigilant about not only the migrant flows along the Western Balkans route, but also about potential developments regarding other routes. Such awareness will enable rapid action and will help in avoiding uncoordinated measures being taken by the Member States.
Other points emphasised by the European Council are the provision of humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, the development of effective returns together with third countries, and making the hotspots functional for the identification and registration of all entrants to the Schengen area. The European Council also pointed out that asylum seekers do not have the right to choose the Member State in which they seek asylum.
Inquiries: Kare Halonen, State Secretary, EU Affairs, tel. +358 295 160 315, Jari Haapiainen, Special Adviser (EU Affairs), tel. +358 295 160 406 and Anne Sjöholm, Head of Communications for EU Affairs, tel. +358 40 537 0733, Prime Minister’s Office