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General Affairs Council: October 2017

Volume 630: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2017

My right hon. Friend, the Baroness Anelay of St Johns, DBE, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:

I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday 17 October. The main items on the agenda were: preparations for the October European Council on 19 and 20 October; and a discussion on the rule of law and media pluralism.

A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at:

Preparation of the European Council, 19 to 20 October 2017

The heads of the EU’s 28 member states, the European Council President and the President of the European Commission assembled at the European Council meeting on 19 and 20 October 2017. To prepare for this meeting, the General Affairs Council examined the draft of conclusions on the proposed agenda for the European Council. The agenda included: migration; digital Europe; defence; and external relations.

The discussions on migration covered both external and internal migration and the reform of the common European asylum system. The Council’s exchanges on digital Europe included: proposals on the digital single market, the free flow of data, digital taxation and cyber security. The Council debated the progress of preparations for the launch of permanent structured co-operation (PESCO) and the complementarity between EU defence measures and NATO under the defence agenda item. As part of the external relations exchanges, Ministers discussed specific foreign policy issues, including relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Turkey.

I intervened to welcome the ambition of the language on the digital Europe conclusions and supported the focus on cyber security, combating terrorism online and information sharing. I pressed for references to counter-terrorism to be treated as a separate issue and not conflated with cyber-security. On defence, I underlined the need to ensure that mechanisms such as PESCO, the European defence fund and the co-ordinated annual review on defence enabled enhanced collaboration between member states in addition to co-operation with non-EU partners. I also welcomed the new text on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran.

Annual Rule of Law dialogue

Ministers discussed media pluralism and the rule of law in the digital age. The dialogue was overshadowed by the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta on the previous day. I joined the condolences expressed by all member states and emphasised the importance of protection for journalists and quality journalism in safeguarding media pluralism.