I attended the General Affairs Council on 15 November. The meeting was chaired by the Slovak presidency and held in Brussels.
The General Affairs Council discussed: the mid-term review of the multiannual financial framework; rule of law; legislative programming—the Commission Work programme 2017 and joint declaration; follow up of the October European Council; preparation of the December European Council on 15/16 December and the European semester.
A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ en/meetings/gac/2016/11/15-16.
Multiannual financial framework
The presidency presented its proposed compromise text for the mid-term review of the multiannual financial framework. The presidency’s proposal allowed for some additional budget flexibility over the remaining years of the seven-year period, while respecting the principles of the original 2013 deal. Most member states agreed with the proposal and it was agreed that it would be used as the basis for a Council common position for discussions with the European Parliament. However, Italy expressed concerns on the level of support for migration and youth employment and placed a reserve on the agreement. The UK abstained.
Rule of law
This was the first evaluation of the rule of law at the General Affairs Council. The presidency presented conclusions which called for a more structured preparation of the discussions and more focused topics to ensure a coherent exchange of views. Most member states agreed with these conclusions. The presidency also suggested a further review in 2019 to consider turning the rule of law dialogue into an annual peer review process—this proposal divided member states and will require further discussion.
Legislative programming—Commission Work programme and joint declaration
First Vice-President of the Commission Frans Timmermans presented the Commission Work programme for 2017. A joint declaration of the EU institutions will outline the priorities and objectives for the year ahead for the EU based on the Commission Work programme. Themes for the joint declaration would be: jobs and growth, migration, energy and the digital single market. The presidency will now discuss the draft joint declaration with the Commission and European Parliament.
Follow-up to the European Council of 20 and 21 October 2016
The presidency said it would aim to make progress on migration and trade between now and the December European Council. The presidency stated they had been working to advance visa liberalisation (Georgia, Ukraine, Kosovo and Turkey), with a trilogue taking place on 16 November.
Preparation of the European Council of 15 and 16 December 2016
The draft agenda for the December European Council is migration, security, economic and social development and external relations. The Commission highlighted that they would like the agenda to cover external migration, with progress on reform of the common European asylum system, as well as strengthening external co-operation on security and defence.
European semester 2017
The European semester 2017 road map was presented and the annual growth survey was published on 16 November.
Italy presented its plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in March 2017.