EU summit on future strategy concludes in Spain's Granada
"Aspiring members need to step up their reform efforts... In parallel, the Union needs to lay the necessary internal groundwork and reforms"
Leaders of the EU member states concluded their one-day informal summit featuring the bloc's future strategy and enlargement in Granada, Spain, with the adoption of the Granada declaration.
The leaders gathered in the southern Spanish city to "mark the start of the process to define the Union's general political directions and priorities for the years to come, setting a strategic course of action to shape our common future for the benefit of all," said the declaration on Friday.
Speaking at a press conference after the summit, European Council president Charles Michel said the adoption of the declaration was an important starting point for future work on the EU's Strategic Agenda (2024-29). The Granada summit marked the first time that EU leaders debated future priorities for the agenda, set to be adopted in June 2024.
On enlargement, the declaration added that both the EU and future member states need to be ready, Xinhua news agency reported.
"Aspiring members need to step up their reform efforts ... In parallel, the Union needs to lay the necessary internal groundwork and reforms."
"The accession process to the European Union is a merits-based one," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the press conference, adding that there are "no shortcuts, no automated accession".
The EU enlargement is the process whereby states join the bloc after they have fulfilled a set of political and economic conditions. Currently, eight countries, including several from the Western Balkans, Ukraine and Moldova, have been granted candidate status, but each follows different processes of rapprochement with the EU.
Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose country is currently holding the rotating six-month presidency of the EU Council, said a day before the summit that Spain is always open to enlargement, but noted that to include these new members would bring "many challenges internally".
The EU leaders also debated migration policy. However, there was no mention of migration in the summit declaration due to divisions among the member states. Poland and Hungary reportedly prevented leaders from including it in the final declaration.
There has been a recent increase in the arrival of migrants on European coasts. As of August, the EU has registered over 160,000 irregular arrivals this year.