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Before the European Council meeting

A clear signal expected on Syria

The Chancellor and the French President expect the European Council meeting to issue a clear message on the situation on Syria. "The situation is disastrous and heart-breaking," declared Angela Merkel. She and President François Hollande also advocated extending EU sanctions on Russia in view of the Ukraine conflict.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande at the joint press conference We stand by the EU-Turkey Agreement and intend to continue to support Greece with repatriation efforts, says Chancellor Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

The situation in Syria and Ukraine were two of the most important items on the agenda when Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande met on Tuesday in Berlin. In the run-up to Thursday’s European Council meeting, they wanted to compare notes on major policy areas, including the EU’s common policy on migration – partly also with respect to migration compacts with African states, reported Angela Merkel.

Making progress with a European asylum system

Moving forward with the European asylum system was also a point discussed, stressed the Chancellor. The two leaders intend to exert pressure here in an effort to achieve swift resolutions. The situation is extremely fragile, especially in the Mediterranean, where there is still no agreement similar to the EU-Turkey Agreement. Support for Greece is vitally important in order to accelerate the repatriation mechanism.

President Hollande explained that in this area, the focus is on protecting the EU’s external borders and making progress on the work of the coastguard and border protection forces.

With a view to matters of internal and external security, in particular defence policy, the European Council will look at the "interesting and important proposals of the EU defence ministers" stressed the Chancellor.

In this context François Hollande gave the example of the establishment of a fund to finance research projects in the defence sector. This is needed in order to ensure permanent capabilities to conduct operations. African states also need assistance to deal with terrorism.

In all the matters to be considered by the European Council, the overarching concern is to provide jobs and security for the people of Europe. The aim is to "present Europe as a force that can better protect us, ensure security and provide prosperity" said Angela Merkel.

View to Ukraine and Syria

International issues will be deliberated at the European Council meeting, including the situation in Ukraine. The Minsk process is proving to be extremely difficult to implement, reported Angela Merkel. It will then be necessary to extend sanctions on Russia again, although they wished this were not the case.

The tragic situation in Syria will also be discussed, said the Chancellor. Every effort is being made at every level to support the civilian population, and provide humanitarian relief and medical supplies. "The situation is disastrous and heart-breaking for us all," declared the Chancellor.

No stone will be left unturned "in an effort to get the Syrian regime, and also Russia and Iran, to realise that it is all about people, and that urgent steps must be taken to improve the situation" she underscored.

President François Hollande declared that the international community has waited too long. It is time now to issue a humanitarian ultimatum to protect the civilian population in Syria. "We must intervene now – we must act, and we shall act."

On Tuesday Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande were invited by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel, to attend the second Franco-German conference on digitalisation at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. This is a follow-up conference to the first joint conference held in Paris.

Dec 13, 2016

Further Information

Video (in german) - Press statement by Federal Chancellor

Franco-German conference on digitalisation