LONDON - With snipers on the roof and armored vehicles surrounding the Council building, Europe’s leaders met in Brussels with security topping the summit agenda. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said leaders had agreed on greater cooperation in intelligence sharing and defense spending.
“We are spending half of the military budget of the U.S. but our efficiency is 15 percent. So there is room for improvement and that’s exactly what we decided today,” Juncker said.
Outside a band of refugees called “Syrians Got Talent” aimed to send a musical message to EU leaders — that they should stand up for migrant rights.
Not all of Europe shares that sentiment. The EU is taking legal action against Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic for refusing to accept refugee quotas.
More than 81,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in 2017, and close to 2,000 have died so far.
French President Emmanuel Macron, attending his first EU summit, said Europe would look to address the causes of the crisis.
He said it is a long-term challenge whose long-term solution is to stabilize Africa, and the near and Middle East.
WATCH: EU agrees to defense cooperation
Optimism in the EU
Despite the challenges there is a renewed optimism in the bloc, says Professor Anand Menon of the U.K. in a Changing Europe program at Kings College London.
“And the Eurozone’s growing again. So all that looks good,” Menon said. “But what I would say is the fundamental structural problems that confront the European Union, whether it’s the migration crisis, whether it’s the Eurozone crisis, whether it’s the problem of democratic backsliding in countries like Hungary and Poland, are no nearer being solved than they were last year. And they will come back again.”
Britain’s exit from the bloc was also discussed. EU leaders described Prime Minister Theresa May’s offer on the future rights of European citizens living in Britain as “below expectations,” signaling tough negotiations ahead.