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General Affairs Council

Volume 623: debated on Tuesday 14 March 2017

I attended the General Affairs Council on 7 March 2017. The meeting was held in Brussels and chaired by the Maltese presidency.

The General Affairs Council discussed: resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament; preparation of the European Council of 9 March 2017; the European Semester; the implementation of the inter-institutional agreement on “better law making”; and the mid-term review of the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020.

A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2017/03/07/.

Resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament

The Council noted the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament at its plenary sessions of February and March 2017.

Preparation of the European Council of 9 March 2017

The Council examined the second draft of conclusions for the March European Council. The discussions focused on: jobs, growth and competitiveness; security and defence; migration; and external relations.

On jobs, growth and competitiveness, and the European Council’s discussion on the sustainability of the economic growth in the 28 member states, I welcomed the positive signs on the economy and set out our strong support for completion of the digital single market. I supported the calls from other member states for further ambition on EU trade policy.

On security and defence, and the European Council’s assessment of the implementation of its December 2016 conclusions, I expressed my support for the balanced nature of the text and stated that any changes should be within the parameters set out at the December European Council.

On migration, and the review of how decisions taken at the informal summit in Malta on 3 February 2017 concerning the central Mediterranean route have been implemented, I welcomed the focus on continued engagement with source and transit countries. I also stated that there needed to be a stronger focus on breaking smugglers’ business models.

The external relations agenda item proposed a discussion on the western Balkans. I pressed for more co-operation with the western Balkans, including strategic communications, to tackle organised crime, third country interference and radicalisation.

European Semester 2017

The presidency presented its synthesis report on the European Semester and suggested that it sends its recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area to the European Council for adoption.

Implementation of the inter-institutional agreement on better law making

The presidency updated the Council on the implementation of the inter-institutional agreement on “better law making”. Good progress had been made and would be monitored three times a year. The June General Affairs Council meeting will provide a comprehensive overview of implementation.

Mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020

The Council agreed to approach the European Parliament with proposed amendments to the mid-term review of the multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020. The UK abstained on this point.

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