GRANADA, Spain, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) concluded here Friday an informal summit on the bloc's future strategy and expansion with the adoption of the Granada Declaration, but failed to reach consensus on migration policy.
The EU member states' 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," stated the declaration.
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 (2024-2029). The Granada summit marked the first time that EU leaders debated future priorities for the agenda, which is set to be adopted in June 2024.
On the EU enlargement, the declaration said it is "a geo-strategic investment in peace, security, stability and prosperity," and "the future of our aspiring members and their citizens lies within the European Union."
For a further enlarged union, it said both the EU and future member states need to be ready. "Aspiring members need to step up their reform efforts ... In parallel, the Union needs to lay the necessary internal groundwork and reforms."
However, the declaration did not set out concrete plans or a timeline for goals.
The EU can no longer approach the question of its enlargement in the current hesitant manner and must set out a clearer roadmap for countries aspiring to membership, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala told the Czech News Agency after the summit.
Michel has said the EU should be ready for its next enlargement by 2030, but other leaders expressed reservations about the necessity to set a date.
"The accession process to the European Union is a merits-based one," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed at the press conference, 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 follow different processes of rapprochement with the EU.
Spanish Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose country is currently holding the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, said a day before the summit that Spain is always open to the EU enlargement, but accepting new members would bring "many challenges internally."
A recent increase in migrant arrivals on European coasts has turned migration into a main topic at the summit. According to data from the EU, as of August, it has registered over 160,000 irregular arrivals this year. Mediterranean EU countries under the highest migratory pressure from Africa have called for concrete actions against illegal migration.
The Spanish presidency wants to make progress on the EU pact on migration, but it remains a divisive topic within the union. Negotiations have dragged on for years due to discrepancies in some member states' standards for sharing responsibility for the management and relocation of migrants.
Poland and Hungary, which reject any shared responsibility for migrants arriving in other EU member states, stopped the leaders from including migration in the summit's final declaration.
"There will be no compromise on migration. Not today, and not in the upcoming years," Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban warned on social media X before the summit.
"As a responsible politician, I officially reject the entire paragraph of the summit conclusions regarding migration," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said after the summit.
In a separate declaration issued in his own name, the European Council president said: "Migration is a European challenge that requires a European response. Irregular migration needs to be immediately addressed in a determined manner." ■