I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting in Brussels on Monday 20 November, in place of Minister of State Lord Callanan. The main items on the agenda were: preparations for the December European Council on 14 and 15 December; a follow-up to the October European Council; legislative programming, with the Commission presenting its 2018 work programme; the implementation of the inter-institutional agreement; and a roadmap of the European semester.
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, 14 to 15 December 2017
The presidency presented the annotated draft agenda for the December European Council, which included defence; social issues, education and culture; and migration.
On the defence agenda item, the Council welcomed a discussion of both PESCO (Permanent Structured Co-operation) and EU-NATO co-operation. I intervened to agree on the importance of EU-NATO co-operation. I also stressed the need for third country participation in PESCO and welcomed early sight of the accompanying Council decision.
Ministers also welcomed the agenda item on social, education and culture following on from the Gothenburg social summit on 17 November. The outcomes of this meeting would provide the basis for Council conclusions. I confirmed the UK’s ongoing commitment to education and culture, as set out in the Prime Minister’s Florence speech and agreed on the importance of mobility and exchange programmes such as Erasmus.
Under the migration item, Ministers welcomed a discussion of both internal and external aspects of migration which would be discussed by leaders over dinner.
October European Council follow-up
The presidency and Commission highlighted the need to address the funding gap for the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) for projects in Libya. I emphasised the UK’s significant bilateral contributions to Libya, which contribute to EUTF outcomes.
Legislative programming—Commission’s work programme (CWP) 2018
Following a presentation by the Commission, Ministers exchanged views on the CWP. These views will determine the Council’s input for the joint declaration between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on legislative priorities for 2018 and the first few months of 2019. I intervened to express support for open, flexible markets which lead to prosperity and strong economies. I also reiterated the UK’s unconditional commitment to ensuring European security.
Interinstitutional Acts implementation
The presidency provided an update on the implementation of the interinstitutional agreement, particularly with regards to international agreements, delegated and implementing Acts and the transparency register. Meanwhile, the Commission explained the role of the new task force on proportionality and subsidiarity, as set out previously by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union speech.