My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 November. My right hon. Friend, Minister of State and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Howe will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) on 17 November. I will attend the General Affairs Council on 17 November. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise will attend the GAC cohesion discussion on 18 November. The Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) 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 Luxembourg presidency. The meetings will be held in Brussels.
Foreign Affairs Council
Middle East Peace Process (MEPP)
Ministers are expected to discuss the recent heightened tensions and violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The High Representative will brief Ministers on her recent meetings with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Ministers will have an exchange of views on Syria, following the international meeting in Vienna on 30 October. Ministers will discuss how the EU and member states can further support the resumption of a Syrian political process, based on the principles of the Geneva Communique of 2012.
Ministers are expected to exchange views on recent developments in the six Eastern Partnership states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine.
The FAC will discuss the outcomes of the Valletta summit on migration which will take place on 11-12 November, and the conference on the Western Balkans route which took place on 8 October. The UK places high importance on working with EU and international partners on migration and will encourage rapid implementation of the action plan due to be agreed at Valletta in order to tackle the causes and consequences of irregular migration.
The FAC will possibly consider latest developments in the UN-led political process. At a UK/UN co-hosted Senior Officials meeting in London on 19 October, all international partners, including the EU, agreed to co-ordinate their assistance to Libya under a UN lead, using a draft structure to be agreed with a Government of National Accord (GNA). The UK will encourage the EU to maintain momentum by urging the House of Representatives and Libyan parties to reach agreement and establish a GNA.
Foreign Affairs Council (Defence)
Ahead of the FAC (Defence), the European Defence Agency (EDA) steering board will focus on the EDA budget and preparatory action on Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)-related research. The EDA will present its three-year planning framework, including possible new projects, contribution to hybrid threats and incentives to encourage greater defence co-operation. The FAC (Defence) will focus on three main agenda items: the Commission’s work to develop and implement a European action plan to ensure that the European defence market is ready to meet future security needs; capacity building for security and development (CBSD) to build capacity in third countries to manage crises; and current operations, with a focus on the naval operation to interdict people smugglers in the Mediterranean and the mission in the central African Republic.
General Affairs Council
The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 17 November is expected to focus on: preparation of the agenda for the European Council on 17 and 18 December 2015; Rule of Law; the inter-institutional agreement on better regulation; the 2016 Commission Work programme; and the European semester.
Preparation of the December European Council
The GAC will prepare the agenda for the 17 and 18 October European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The draft December European Council agenda covers: migration; economic and monetary union; the single market; the UK’s renegotiation; and external relations issues, likely to include Russia and Ukraine.
Rule of Law
The presidency will host the first annual dialogue on promoting the rule of law in the European Union at the GAC. The Luxembourg presidency has outlined ‘rule of law in the age of digitalisation’ as the theme which member states will discuss. First Vice-President Timmermans will also report on October’s human rights colloquium, hosted by the European Commission, on combating anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred.
Inter-institutional agreement on better regulation (IIA)
The GAC will receive a presentation from the Luxembourg presidency updating Ministers on the progress of the IIA negotiations, including the recent political talks between the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. We expect the discussion to be focused on the anticipated amended IIA text on Chapter 3 (better regulation) and 4 (legislative instruments) of the existing draft text.
2016 Commission Work Programme
The GAC will discuss the 2016 Commission Work Programme (CWP): “No Time for Business as Usual” published on 27 October.
We want a more effective EU—a dynamic, competitive, outward focused Europe, delivering prosperity and security for the benefit of all its members. A CWP focused on jobs, economic growth, trade, competitiveness and through the use of regulatory fitness and performance programme (REFIT) measures and withdrawals, a better regulatory environment for business is a step towards this goal.
Annual growth review and roadmap for the European semester 2016
The GAC will receive a Commission presentation on the 2016 annual growth survey (AGS), to be released on 18 November. The AGS marks the beginning of the European semester process and is published alongside the alert mechanism report, the joint employment report and the Commission draft budgetary opinions on eurozone member states. The AGS sets out broad EU level economic and social objectives for the year ahead and is expected to contain a focus on euro area level priorities, as set out in the European Commission’s 21 October communication on steps towards completing economic and monetary union.
The GAC will also receive a presentation from the Luxembourg presidency and incoming Dutch presidency on the timeline and next steps in the 2016 European semester process.
General Affairs Council cohesion
The 18 November GAC will focus on issues relating to the EU’s cohesion policy. The presidency plans three discussions, with Council conclusions agreed on each; first on the contribution of the European structural and investment funds to support the transition to a low carbon economy; second, on European territorial co-operation (or Interreg) programmes; and third, on steps that might be taken to simply the implementation and administration of European structural and investment funds.