My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 March and I will attend the General Affairs Council on 17 March. The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council will be chaired by the Latvian presidency. The meetings will be held in Brussels.
Foreign Affairs Council
Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH)
During her introduction, Ms Mogherini will update Ministers on progress of the EU initiative on Bosnia. Now that the BiH Parliament has approved the written commitment to reform we expect Ms Mogherini to recommend that the Foreign Affairs Council give political agreement for the EU/BiH stabilisation and association agreement to be adopted at the April General Affairs Council. The UK will fully support this approach.
Ministers will have a strategic discussion on Africa, which was rescheduled from the February FAC. The UK will stress the link between trade and development and peace and security, and underline the importance of the EU retaining its role as a key player on the continent. The UK will also emphasise the importance of a partnership of equals: the EU should welcome the African Union’s developing capacity to respond to African crises, while encouraging the Africans to speak out constructively on global issues. The UK will also use the FAC to focus on Nigeria’s 28 March presidential elections and will want to signal continued support for supporting regional efforts to tackle Boko Haram. The UK will also encourage the EU to capitalise on the successful high-level Ebola conference on 3 March, stressing the primary objective of getting to zero new cases and the immediate need to fund the $400 million of critical activity to achieve this, as well as other priorities such as improved regional co-ordination and a safe transition to a sustainable recovery.
We expect the discussion to focus on the role that the EU should play in Libya. The UK will seek agreement from member states to a twin-track approach that includes providing support to the political process and improving the security situation. A further discussion on Libya will take place at the European Council on 19 March.
Ministers will discuss preparations for the Eastern Partnership summit, which will take place in Riga on 21-22 May 2015. The UK will argue that the summit should send a strong message endorsing the sovereign right of Eastern Partnership countries—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine—to make their own strategic choices without third party interference. The EU should also confirm support for the implementation of real reforms on the ground for the benefit of citizens of partner countries, including through the implementation of the EU association agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Ms Mogherini has proposed a review of policies on migration, arguing that the challenge of migratory pressures needs both a political and operational response, with migration being linked to external affairs and other engagements with third countries. Ministers will consider this review and have a strategic discussion on the proposed migration agenda. The UK broadly supports this initiative but we look forward to further detailed information about the proposal and how it may impact on our broader interests.
The Hungarian Government have requested that member states contribute financially to an appeal by Archbishop Wardh of Erbil for Christian families displaced by ISIL. The UK remains deeply concerned by the persecution of all communities, Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen and others, by ISIL. The UK is providing £39.5 million in humanitarian aid and supports the commitments made by Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi to inclusive governance and protecting the rights of all minorities.
General Affairs Council
The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 17 March is due to focus on: preparation of the European Council on 19 and 20 March 2015; and the European semester.
Preparation of the March European Council
The GAC will prepare the 19 and 20 March European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The March European Council agenda is expected to include: energy union; economic issues (including the 2015 European semester); and external relations issues (likely to include preparation for the Eastern Partnership summit in May, Ukraine and Libya).
The GAC will consider the synthesis report on the 2015 European semester exercise. This is a policy discussion and there are no anticipated outputs at this stage. We welcome the focus of the annual growth survey on jobs and growth and emphasise that the semester should not be diluted by the inclusion of other agendas.