My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 15 February and I will attend the General Affairs Council on 16 February. 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 Dutch presidency. The meetings will be held in Brussels.
Foreign Affairs Council
The expected agenda for the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) will include Bosnia, South Africa, Moldova, Belarus, Libya and climate diplomacy. The Lebanon Foreign Minister will attend lunch where there will be an opportunity to follow up on commitments made at the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region 2016 and look at wider regional issues.
HRVP Mogherini will include Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in her introductory remarks, signalling BiH’s intention to submit its EU membership application in the margins of the meeting. While the UK Government will wish to welcome BiH’s progress on its EU path, we will want to make clear what more needs to be done for the application to proceed—namely more meaningful implementation of the reform agenda, stabilisation and association agreement (SAA) adaptation to take into account Croatia’s accession to the EU; and agreement on a co-ordination mechanism to allow BiH to speak with one voice to the EU.
Ministers are expected to exchange views on HRVP Mogherini’s forthcoming visit to South Africa and the future direction of the EU’s strategic partnership with the country. The UK will seek to encourage increased engagement and note the importance of the EU’s broad and significant partnership with South Africa.
Ministers are expected to exchange views on recent developments in the Republic of Moldova.
The FAC will have a discussion on relations between the EU and Belarus. Improving the human rights situation in the country remains a key priority for the EU.
Ministers will be joined for lunch by Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. As host to over 1.1 million refugees from Syria, Lebanon is on the front line of the humanitarian response to the crisis. At the Supporting Syria and the Region 2016 Conference held in London on 4 February the UK and co-hosts signed an agreement with Lebanon that will see the international community providing long-term support to strengthen the Lebanese economy and create job opportunities for host communities and refugees. Ministers will discuss the implementation of this agreement, the urgent need for Lebanon to elect a President, and security in the region.
The FAC will focus on the latest developments in the UN-led political process. The UK, along with the UN and international partners continues to urge all parties to resolve the remaining issues quickly. The EU will play an important role in providing immediate support to a Government of National Accord, and we will encourage the EU to develop its options for support in co-ordination with the UN.
Ministers are expected to discuss the outcomes of the Paris climate change agreement and how best to support its implementation. They will exchange views on how the EU and member states should co-ordinate their efforts, including a draft climate diplomacy plan drawn up by the European External Action Service. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said in her statement to the House on 14 December, this historic new global climate change agreement takes a significant step towards reducing, on a global scale, the emissions that cause climate change. The UK Government welcome the way the EU institutions and member states worked together to deliver the Paris agreement. The Government will continue to engage actively with EU partners and the institutions to support implementation of the agreement.
General Affairs Council
The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 16 February is expected to focus on European Council follow up, preparation of the February and March European Councils and the inter-institutional agreement on better regulation.
European Council follow up
The GAC will discuss the implementation of conclusions adopted at the December European Council, with a particular focus on the migration issue.
Preparation of the February European Council
The GAC will prepare the draft conclusions for the 18-19 February European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The February European Council agenda covers the UK’s EU renegotiation migration and economic issues.
Preparation of the March European Council
The GAC will prepare the agenda for the 17-18 March European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The March European Council agenda has not yet been released but we expect it to include migration.
Inter-institutional agreement on better regulation (IIA)
The GAC will receive a further update on the IIA negotiations from the presidency. The Council may also discuss implementation, depending on the progress made ahead of the Council.