Lord Callanan, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:
I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting on 19 February in Brussels. A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2019/02/19/.
Multiannual financial framework 2021-27
The presidency presented Ministers with an updated work programme on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021-27. Ministers discussed the latest version of the negotiating box on the MFF. The negotiating box brings together the large number of decisions within the MFF negotiations, and facilitates discussion on options and solutions on individual issues. Ministers agreed that the negotiating box should be simplified at future GAC discussions, in preparation for leaders to discuss at the June European Council. The intention is to reach an agreement on the negotiations in autumn 2019.
Preparation of the European Council 21 and 22 March 2019: annotated draft agenda
The Council discussed an annotated draft agenda for the March European Council. Leaders are expected to discuss jobs, growth and competitiveness; climate change, external relations, tackling disinformation and protecting the democratic integrity of the European and national elections across the EU. The Commission confirmed that industrial policy, single market, capital markets union, and European digital policy should be discussed under the first agenda item. Ministers welcomed the EU-China summit on the agenda, and highlighted the importance of a strong relationship with China for future economic and trade opportunities.
I intervened to welcome the inclusion of the tackling of disinformation and restated the Prime Minister’s comments at the December European Council that disinformation remained a threat to our democratic processes. I welcomed the Commission’s recent action plan on disinformation and called for clearly defined and measurable objectives for its follow up. I stated that to tackle disinformation effectively we needed to take a comprehensive approach that included addressing the actors behind disinformation.
Towards a sustainable Europe 2030
Ministers discussed the Commission’s reflection paper “Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030, on the follow-up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change”. The reflection paper was published in January and served as a basis for the Council’s discussion on what needed to be done to ensure a sustainable Europe by 2030. Ministers underlined the importance of ensuring sustainable development is supported through domestic, regional and global action, in order to achieve the implementation of the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development at EU level. This discussion will contribute to the preparation of the March Council conclusions on the Commission’s reflection paper, and sessions of the high-level policy forum on sustainable development in July and September 2019.
Values of the Union—Hungary / article 7(1) TEU reasoned proposal
The presidency updated Ministers on its meeting with the European Parliament regarding the article 7(1) procedure in relation to Hungary. The Commission set out its ongoing infraction proceedings against Hungary’s treatment of asylum seekers, attacks on media plurality and academic freedom.
Rule of law in Poland / article 7 (1) TEU reasoned proposal
The Commission provided Ministers with an update on the rule of law proceedings in Poland. Ministers considered that recent legislative changes concerning the Supreme Court law were a positive development, and encouraged the Polish authorities to address the remaining issues raised by the Commission.