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General Affairs Council

Volume 652: debated on Wednesday 16 January 2019

Lord Callanan, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:

I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting on 8 January in Brussels. A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at:

Presentation of the priorities of the Romanian presidency

The Romanian presidency provided an overview of the priorities for its first presidency, which began on 1 January 2019. The priorities of the presidency are organised around the four pillars of: a Europe of convergence, a safer Europe, Europe as a stronger global actor and a Europe of common values. The presidency reminded Ministers of the challenges that lay ahead during its six-month tenure and called for strengthened cohesion among member states.

Multiannual financial framework 2021-27

Ministers discussed the progress required on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) negotiations over the course of the Romanian presidency. The presidency indicated that it intended to include the MFF on the agenda of every meeting of the GAC during its six-month tenure, with the intention of reaching an agreement on the negotiations in the European Council in autumn 2019. The Commission reiterated the need to reach agreement by autumn and indicated that it wished to see agreement on spending in areas such as Digital Europe and a new partnership with Africa.

Co-ordinated response on disinformation

Ministers discussed how to respond to the threat of disinformation, taking into consideration the forthcoming European parliamentary elections. The discussion followed a number of recent initiatives at EU level on tackling disinformation, such as the “Joint Action Plan against Disinformation”, which was endorsed by EU leaders at the December European Council. Ministers discussed which elements of the action plan should be prioritised.

I intervened to stress the importance of co-operation with third parties, including NATO. I also underlined the value that the UK placed on the support and co-operation it received from member states following the attack in Salisbury last year, when we worked closely and shared information on the Russian disinformation campaign.

Legislative files

The presidency provided an overview of various legislative files that it wanted to advance during the coming months, including: the MFF 2021-27, the digital single market, the banking union, security-related files and Brexit preparedness proposals. The Commission pressed for the conclusion of as many files as possible before the European parliamentary elections.