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European Union/General Affairs Council

Published on February 17, 2016
Statements to the press by M. Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, on his arrival
Brussels, February 16, 2016

At this meeting, we’re going to look at the two major subjects of the forthcoming European Council: preparations for the British referendum, and the refugee crisis.

On the preparation of the agreement with Britain, we must work in a constructive spirit to reach an outcome at the forthcoming European Council on 18 and 19 February. Work remains to be done, particularly on relations between the Euro Area and non-euro countries – on the integrity of the internal market, on the regulation of financial markets – but I think the goal we must set ourselves is for agreement to have been reached on the bulk of these points between now and the European Council meeting.

David Cameron was in Paris yesterday. He’s continuing his consultations, and we, France, would like an agreement to be finalized before the European Council begins, on the text, or at any rate the essential parts of it, particularly on relations between the Euro Area and non-Euro Area countries. It’s absolutely clear we must ensure that Britain’s distinct identity, and the differentiated integration various countries follow within the European Union, are recognized, but that nothing prevents the Euro Area countries from continuing their deepening and their integration.

On the refugee crisis, the priority is to implement the decisions that have been taken. Progress has been made in recent weeks but is still insufficient, particularly on the establishment of “hot spots” in both Greece and Italy, effective border controls, the stepping-up of security checks when refugees enter, and the fight against illegal immigration, which endangers human lives.

Talks with Turkey, and support for Greece in particular, must absolutely be stepped up, at the same time as the member states’ commitment on relocation is being implemented.

There you are: those are clearly the two essential points at this General Affairs Council meeting, which should be useful in preparing the agreements that will have to be finalized at the European Council.

Thank you./.

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