In the midst of the deepest global recession since the Second World War the European Council again demonstrated the Union's determination to rise above present difficulties and to look to the future by taking a series of decisions intended to meet, rapidly and effectively, a wide range of challenges.

Convinced that the Lisbon Treaty will provide a better framework for action by the Union in a large number of fields, Heads of State or Government agreed on legal guarantees designed to respond to concerns raised by the Irish people, thus paving the way for them to be consulted again on that Treaty. Heads also took first steps in the process of designating the President of the next Commission.

The economic crisis remains of paramount importance to citizens. The significant measures taken so far in support of the banking sector and the wider real economy have been successful in preventing financial meltdown and in beginning to restore the prospects for real growth. The European Council took a number of decisions intended to lead to the creation of a new financial supervisory architecture with the aim of protecting the European financial system from future risks and ensuring that the mistakes of the past can never be repeated. Top priority must be given to tackling the effects of the crisis on employment by helping people stay in work or find new jobs.

Successfully combating climate change will also contribute to moving to a sustainable economy and create new jobs. The European Council took further steps towards forging the EU's position for the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference at the end of the year. It sent out a strong signal of its intention to maintain a driving role in this process and called on the rest of the international Community to play its full part in bringing about a successful and ambitious outcome at Copenhagen.

European leaders expressed great concern at the dramatic situation in the Mediterranean area and agreed on a number of measures in order to help the Member States in the frontline to respond to the influx of illegal immigrants and to prevent further human tragedies.

The EU's role in the world remains of particular interest to European leaders. The European leaders underlined the strategic importance of transatlantic relations and welcomed the launch of the Eastern Partnership. They also stressed that the Middle East Peace Process remained a top priority for the EU in 2009. The European Council reconfirmed the great importance of stability and security in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the wider region. The European Council adopted the declarations on Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In the declaration on Burma/Myanmar leaders called for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi. [sic]

Regarding the issue of  strengthening efforts to support employment, three priority areas which should receive particular attention were identified, both within the recovery packages of the Member States and within the initiatives launched at European level:

  • maintaining employment, creating new jobs and promoting mobility;
  • upgrading skills and matching labour market needs; 
  • increasing access to employment.

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