The EU27 agreed on three political priorities: migration and protection of external frontiers, internal and external security as well as social and economic development. The United Kingdom was once more absent from the table in Bratislava.
A positive EU agenda for the next twelve months
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had set the scene for Bratislava two days earlier with his State of the Union speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. He explained that Europe is in the midst of an existential crisis and emphasised that the response means not more Europe but "a better Europe". Juncker called for more solidarity between EU Member States and made clear that only a united Europe is strong enough to help shape the world at international level.
His agenda comprises numerous European measures for more investments. Thus, the duration and financing capacity of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) should be doubled, an investment initiative for Africa and the EU neighbourhood should be launched and more financing possibilities should be realised through progress on the capital market union. Further measures should strengthen the digital single market.
In addition, the development of a European border and coast guard, a European travel information system, a European defence fund and a common headquarter for Europe should make Europe more secure.
For the area of social policy, Juncker limited himself to two initiatives that are already on the table, revision of the posting of workers directive as well as development of a pillar of social rights. Addressing the United Kingdom, Juncker made it crystal clear that free movement of workers is a European value and that there will be no European Single Market "à la carte".
Preparations for the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties
The State of the Union speech and the Bratislava declaration constitute the beginning of a political process for a better EU. The aim is to have moved considerably further by 25 March 2017, which marks the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties. Heads of State and Government are to meet again as early as October in order to make EU trade policy fit for the future - an important signal at a time when free trade is increasingly perceived as a threat rather than an opportunity.