Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, Croatian State Secretary for European Affairs, chaired the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on 28 January. I represented the United Kingdom.
Adoption of A items
A number of A items were considered, including on accession negotiations with Serbia, the EU position on TIR convention and the safeguarding of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. A full list can be found on the EU Council’s website at https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2020/01/28/.
Presentation of priorities of the Croatian presidency
The presidency presented on their priorities for their presidency. These include: sectoral and horizontal legislation related to the next multiannual financial framework; enlargement policy, particularly in the run-up to an informal EU-western Balkans summit in May; implementation of the EU strategic agenda; cohesion; and promoting the EU as a community of values. The presidency also listed as a priority enabling an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU and starting negotiations on a future partnership.
Conference on the future of Europe
There followed a substantial discussion on the proposed conference on the future of Europe, including its content, scope, composition and functioning. This followed recent communications from both the Commission and EU Parliament setting out their position on the conference.
Any other business
I intervened, on the occasion of the last attendance of a United Kingdom Minister at an EU Council, in relation to the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. In doing so, I reiterated that while the United Kingdom will be leaving the EU, we will not be leaving Europe; and that while we will have a different relationship, we will continue to stand together as sovereign equals to defend our shared values. I further reiterated the United Kingdom’s hope that we can deliver on our joint aspiration for a high quality free trade agreement to be agreed by the end of the year.