European Council: European Semester, Serbia candidate country, Schengen roadmap for Romania and Bulgaria

On 1 and 2 March 2012, at the European Council meeting, the EU leaders closed the first phase of the European Semester, granted candidate status to Serbia, and reached an agreement on the roadmap for the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area they also discussed questions related to the EU’s economic strategy and the international situation. They also prepared a number of international summits.

In the European Semester cycle, the March European Council evaluates the overall picture of the macroeconomic situation across the member states and provides strategic orientations for the member states for the second phase of the semester, during which they will submit to the Commission their stability and convergence programmes and national reform programmes. This year’s strategic orientation by the heads of state and government focuses on two main issues: how to make the fiscal consolidation growth-friendly and how to improve competitiveness.

As regards eurozone matters, the leaders welcomed the progress made on the new programme for Greece. The adequacy of the lending ceiling of the European Financial Stability Facility / European Stability Mechanism (EFSF/ESM) will be reassessed by the end of March. Eurozone leaders agreed to speed up the payments of the pending capital for the ESM.

The heads of state and government agreed to grant Serbia the status of a candidate country. “This is a remarkable achievement – a result of the efforts demonstrated by both sides in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina,” said Herman Van Rompuy.

Progress was made regarding the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area. The Justice and Home Affairs Council is asked to adopt a decision in September; meanwhile, a package of reassuring measures will be worked on.

The leaders took stock of developments in the Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood and agreed on the priorities for upcoming international meetings. The situation in Syria is of particular concern. The EU will step up the pressure against the Syrian regime and is ready to take further targeted restrictive measures. The European Council remains determined to ensure that those responsible for the atrocities being committed in Syria are held accountable for their actions and will coordinate closely with and assist those working to document these appalling crimes. It has already mobilised humanitarian funding and will step up help when the conditions allow more relief operations to be undertaken.

The European Council expresses its concern over the further deterioration of the situation in Belarus. The EU is ready to extend the list of persons subject to a travel ban and an assets freeze.

The leaders took stock of developments in the Southern Neighbourhood, including the Middle East and the Gulf region. The EU is committed to assisting countries engaged in political reforms towards democracy.

They also agreed on the priorities to be pursued at the upcoming G20 meeting with a particular emphasis on growth and financial market reforms. Green growth and sustainable development will be promoted by the EU at both the G20 and the Rio+20 summits.

Links:

Press statement by President Van Rompuy (pdf)
Press conference video
Eurozone governance
Serbia is granted EU candidate status (Press flash – pdf)