"It is easy to blame Europe or Schengen for security failures in our Member States, and wave the illusion that retreating behind national borders somehow immunises against - often home-grown - terrorists", said the EP President Schulz in his opening speech before the European Council of 17-18 December dedicated to pressing issues, such as migration, counter terrorism and the British referendum. "If we want to preserve our freedom of movement, then we must act fast and decisively."
European Parliament President Martin Schulz welcomed the fact that heads of state and government would address the most pressing issues the EU is currently facing: migration, counter terrorism, the economic and monetary union, the climate and energy policy, the British referendum and the Ukraine conflict .Concerning the latter, EP President Martin Schulz said that to reach a lasting peace in Eastern Ukraine the country should be supported in stabilising its economy and ensuring its energy independence.. He highlighted the need to "explore ways to involve Russia constructively in the international efforts to settle the Syrian conflict", but warned of any issue-linkage: "Syria and Ukraine are not connected. No concessions or trade-offs must be made between the two." Schulz stressed that "sanctions can only be reviewed under one condition: if substantial progress is made and the Minsk agreements are fulfilled".
Schulz urged the Member States to set up the "hot-spot" centres for migrants and to implement the decision already taken by the member states to relocate 120 000 refugees. So far, less than 200 persons had been relocated. "This figure is shameful and I call on all member states to shoulder their responsibility." The President welcomed the European Commission's proposal on a European border and coastguard: "Enjoying a Europe free of internal borders and sharing the responsibility for the management of our external borders are two sides of the same coin."
Speaking on radicalisation, the fight against the financing of terrorism and counter-terrorism, the President mentioned political agreements reached within the EU on the Data Protection legislative Package, the upgrading of Europol and the EU-Passenger Name Records system. Nevertheless, he said, Europe still had a "very long way to go yet in fighting against serious and organised crime and terrorism".
Schulz referred to the ambitious Paris climate agreement and said that efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C should be pursued. "The Energy Union will be key in delivering the EU's long term commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
On the United Kingdom, Martin Schulz expressed his belief that "a suitable agreement which takes into account the sensitivities of all sides and also the legal constraints" can be reached. However, he warned that "all of the requests present some form of difficulty". "Some are very difficult, others more workable, but all need to be addressed with care. The process must avoid unduly advantaging those who move more slowly along the road of EU integration, especially regarding the areas that are the building blocks of the EU such as the single market".