In his statement after the October European Council, President Barroso outlined discussions which had taken place on access to finance for SMEs, regulatory fitness, the trade agreement with Canada, the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit, and the issue of migration and refugees.
On Friday 25 October, the European Council continued its discussion on the economic situation, focussing on how to release the wider contribution of services to the economy in particular by increasing access to finance for SMEs. Leaders agreed to significantly increase the funding for SMEs through the structural and investment funds.
The European Council gave a strong endorsement to the Commission's REFIT programme. President Barroso stressed the importance of common rules which underpin the single market, and made clear that the REFIT programme was about the quality of those rules, ensuring that they were fit for purpose and imposed the minimum possible burdens. Europe should act only where it can add real value, and should be big on the bigger things, small on the smaller things.
The European Council welcomed the political agreement on CETA, the trade agreement with Canada, and discussed in detail the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. President Barroso commented that this had the potential to be a truly historic event as the common goal of political association and economic integration with the Eastern Partners was close to being achieved. The European Council discussed relations with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, and it is clear that continuous engagement will remain crucial following the Vilnius summit.
Finally, perhaps the most substantive discussion of the summit was on Lampedusa and the issue of illegal migration and refugees in Europe. This is not a new problem and the EU has been working on these issues for many years, but there is a new sense of urgency in the light of the recent tragedies. The Commission will lead a Task Force on this issue, and will present a report to the European Council in December. President Barroso called for a stronger response from the European Union to reinforce search and rescue operations; to help the frontline Member States which are most exposed to the situation; to work with countries of origin and transit to manage migration flows; and to fight against organised crime and human trafficking.
President Barroso concluded that this was an important European Council with a vast agenda, and that real progress had been achieved across a whole range of areas.