Thursday 24 November 2016
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
The Competitiveness Council is taking place in Brussels on 28-29 November. Baroness Neville-Rolfe will be representing the UK on 28 November (internal market and industry). I am expecting to represent the UK on 29 November (research and innovation).
Britain will in due course be leaving the EU. While we remain a member of the EU we will continue to participate in Competitiveness Council discussions and vote on legislative proposals, in line with our rights and obligations as a member state.
The Slovak presidency has yet to finalise the agenda for the Council. However we expect the following items to be discussed:
The Commission will be seeking a general approach on a proposed regulation to address geo-blocking and other forms of nationality-based discrimination. The UK will support the Commission’s initiative to end unjustified discrimination against consumers. There will also be a first reading of legislation on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles and trailers, enforcement of consumer protection laws, and three legislative proposals on copyright in the digital single market.
There will be a discussion on skills as part of the regular competitiveness ‘check-up’ which will be followed by an exchange of views; a stock-take on the single market strategy; and an exchange of views on the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC).
We expect a number of items to be presented to the Council for information including a notice from the Commission on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions; the SME Envoy’s report; and a report from the Slovak presidency on the outcome of the conference ‘Collaborative Economy’ held in Brussels on 15 November.
The Hungarian delegation will present information on the competitiveness aspects of the European pillar of social rights. The German delegation has asked to present information on the significance of industrial policy in the Commission’s 2017 work programme.
Finally, the Maltese presidency will present information on its work programme.
The Commission will present the space strategy for Europe. The strategy is a good fit to UK priorities for growing the space sector and the UK will be supportive.
The UK will support the draft Council conclusions on early stage researchers, which recognise the importance to Europe’s future global competitiveness of nurturing the next generation of researchers and scientists.
The final substantive agenda item is the Commission’s report on the implementation of the strategy for international co-operation in research and innovation. The UK has been actively engaged in promoting the important role of scientific diplomacy in this context and is encouraged to see this agenda progressing.
AOB items will include: presentations on open science; the quantum technologies flagship; information from the presidency on the high level conference on European bio-economy held in Bratislava on 17 October; and information from the Portuguese delegation on the development of a European infrastructure to promote north-south co-operation.
The day will conclude with information from the Maltese delegation on the work programme of the incoming presidency.
Justice and Home Affairs Council
I attended the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 17 and 18 November in Brussels.
On the evening of 17 November, the presidency hosted a meeting for Ministers, focused on migration. The main focus of discussion was the future of the common European asylum system and “effective solidarity”, which included discussions on moving away from relocation being considered the only way for member states to demonstrate solidarity. Ministers agreed to take forward further work on developing solidarity, although this is not relevant to the UK as the Government have already decided not to opt in to the new Dublin IV regulation, and on upstream engagement with third countries. I reiterated that the UK does not take part in the EU’s relocation and resettlement schemes.
The Council on 18 November began with the presidency inviting the Commission to set out its new proposal on a European travel and information authorisation system (ETIAS). The Commission indicated that the proposal aims to provide for greater security and border management by increasing the amount of information on non-visa nationals entering the Schengen area. Negotiations on the proposals will be taken forward by the relevant official-level Council working groups. As the UK is not in Schengen, we will not participate in this measure.
The Council continued with a focus on IT and data-sharing measures related to border management. All member states agreed to continue implementation of the Dutch data-sharing road map agreed at the June JHA Council. The Commission set out its future priorities for work in this area, including: better training; improving data quality; and upgrading existing systems. The Commission also indicated that it would be bringing forward two legislative proposals, one in December and one in June 2017, to upgrade the second generation Schengen information system (SIS II). The Commission’s priorities for upgrading SIS II include finger or palm-print alerts, facial recognition, counterfeit documents and effective Europol and European Border and Coast Guard access. I reiterated the need for progress on systematic sharing of criminal information, building on the excellent work in the joint UK-Latvia-Netherlands serious offending by mobile European criminals (SOMEC) report on mobile criminality, and improving data quality.
Ministers then discussed the fight against terrorism, taking note of progress in implementing existing EU Council conclusions on this issue, and ongoing activities to prevent and disrupt terrorist activity in the EU, particularly around travel for terrorist purposes.
The Commission set out a number of principles that support EU efforts to fight terrorism. These included the need for secure borders, information exchange between member states, and implementation of the passenger name record (PNR), counter-terrorism and firearm directives. I stressed the UK’s role as leader in PNR implementation within the EU and our willingness to share lessons learnt with partners. I also reminded member states of the importance of aviation security and the need to build on the momentum of UN resolution 2309 with the adoption of a European strategy.
In relation to the EU internet forum, Ministers discussed how to increase collaboration between industry and member states to prevent radicalisation by means of the internet, ahead of a ministerial meeting of the forum in December.
In a break in the plenary session Ministers discussed how to ensure effective co-operation between the non-EU counter-terrorism group (CTG) and Europol.
Foreign Affairs Council for Development
On the morning of 28 November, I will attend the Foreign Affairs Council for Development in Brussels. The meeting will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. The UK is a global leader in international development and this is demonstrated by our commitment to meeting the UN aid target of 0.7% of gross national income. I look forward to using this opportunity to push the EU to do more to deliver the ambitious development agenda set out in the global goals.
The UK is leaving the EU. While we remain a member we will continue to play a full role in line with our rights and obligations and represent the interests of the people of the United Kingdom.
European consensus on development
European Commissioner for International Co-operation and Development, Neven Mimica, will present the European Commission proposal on a new European consensus on development. The consensus is the comprehensive EU policy framework for development assistance and is being updated to be aligned with the main themes of agenda 2030 and the global goals. I will highlight the UK’s broad support for a comprehensive and integrated approach to development and push for better coherence across development and humanitarian assistance.
Commissioner Mimica will present the European Commission’s impact assessment and policy document on the future framework for EU co-operation with the African, Pacific and Caribbean countries; an initial exchange of views from member states will follow. This is an initial discussion on revising the Cotonou agreement treaty that will expire in 2020. I will use this discussion to encourage the EU and member states to consider a differentiated approach towards partner countries at different levels of development.
Migration and development
High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini will present an update on the state of play on the proposed external investment plan. Ministers will also discuss follow-up to the Valletta summit as part of the EU’s migration agenda and planned events, including the EU emergency trust fund for Africa steering committee. The UK continues to work with European partners on migration, including assessing ways to better address protracted crises and co-ordinating approaches to other drivers of unmanaged flows.
Energy and development
Maroš Šefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission with responsibility for the energy union, will join for a substantive discussion on energy and sustainable development. This will build on agreed Council conclusions on the same topic and look to focus on progress made through the EU-Africa energy partnership in the context of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
Other agenda items
Ministers will adopt Council conclusions on mainstreaming digital solutions and technologies in EU development policy, the Court of Auditors report on humanitarian aid to the great lakes region, energy and development, and the EU common position for the second high-level meeting of the global partnership for effective development co-operation.