I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Luxembourg on 18 June 2019. Until we leave the European Union, we remain committed to fulfilling our rights and obligations as a full member state and continue to act in good faith. A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at:
Multiannual financial framework 2021-27
Ministers discussed the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021-27, ahead of the June European Council. The presidency had streamlined the options on the negotiating table ahead of the June European Council. Ministers agreed that the negotiations should conclude by the end of the year. However, issues that remained unresolved included: the prioritisation of funding between cohesion, common agricultural policy (CAP) and current spending; the framing of the debate on rebates; Horizon Europe; and restating of positions on own resources. The Commission underlined that the new European Parliament (EP) would be ready to restart discussions between the European Commission and the Council of the European Union in July.
Preparation of the European Council on 20-21 June 2019: Conclusions and European Council follow-up
The Council finalised preparations for the European Council on 20-21 June and Ministers broadly accepted the latest draft of conclusions. The agenda comprised: the next institutional cycle; MFF; climate change; the European semester; disinformation and hybrid threats; and external relations.
Member states discussed the projected timeline for the MFF and many requested a special November summit to facilitate further progress on negotiations. On climate, some member states pushed for a commitment to climate neutrality by 2050, as well as upholding the Paris agreement. Other member states continued to resist these proposals and insisted that an EU strategy should not pre-empt their own work in this area.
I intervened in support of the ambitious climate targets and highlighted the UK’s recent commitment to climate neutrality by 2050. I stressed the importance of EU leadership in tackling climate change. I also supported improving the EU’s security culture and enhancing its resilience against external hybrid security threats. I highlighted that countering disinformation remained a key priority for the UK and welcomed the language welcoming the adoption of the restrictive measures regime for cyber threats. On external relations, I underlined the need to continue to tackle Russian aggression and to support the full implementation of the Minsk agreement. I welcomed the inclusion of the relationship with Africa and reference to the five-year anniversary of the downing of flight MH17.
Enlargement and stabilisation and association process
Ministers agreed conclusions on the western Balkans and Turkey, in response to the Commission’s 2019 enlargement package. The conclusions take note of the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania, based on its evaluation of the positive progress made. They also welcome the Prespa agreement between Greece and North Macedonia. The Council will revert to the issue with the intention of reaching a clear and substantive decision no later than October 2019.
European semester—Horizontal report on country-specific recommendations
Ministers discussed the Commission’s horizontal report on the macro-economic situation of the EU, which draws on country-specific recommendations (CSR), and decided to pass the report to the European Council.