Tue. Nov 30th, 2021

Brussels, 22 November 2021

BACKGROUND on the General Affairs Council Brussels, 23 October 2021

Chair: Gašper Dovžan, State Secretary at the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The meeting will start at 9:30.

A press conference will be held at the end of the meeting at around 18:00. The Council will start preparing the European Council of 16-17 December 2021.

Ministers aim to approve conclusions on enhancing preparedness, response capability and resilience to future crises.

They will exchange views on the enlargement and stabilisation and association processes. The state of play of the EU–UK relations will also be on the agenda.

Ministers will hold a country-specific discussion in the context of the annual rule of law dialogue. The Commission will present its work programme for 2022.

1 This note has been drawn up under the responsibility of the press office.

 

European Council on 16-17 December 2021

Ministers will start preparing the European Council on 16-17 December, when leaders will come back to the coordination of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and take stock of work done in the Council on enhancing our collective preparedness, response capability and resilience to future crises.

The European Council will also look at the developments in energy prices again as agreed in October.

Following the informal dinner in Brdo and the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) meeting, leaders will provide guidance on the draft Strategic Compass and EU-NATO cooperation.

They will prepare the EU-AU Summit in line with the Leaders’ Agenda.

The migration situation and developments at the border with Belarus will be kept under close review and leaders will come back to this at European Council level as necessary.

Provisional agenda

 

Conclusions on resilience and crisis response

Ministers aim to approve conclusions on enhancing preparedness, response capability and resilience to future crises.

The June European Council invited the Presidency to take work forward in the Council to enhance the Union’s collective preparedness, response capability and resilience to future crises and to protect the functioning of the internal market.

At their informal meeting in Brdo pri Kranju on 23 July, the Ministers of European Affairs held a discussion on strengthening the Union’s resilience and supported the efforts of the Slovenian Presidency towards a more comprehensive response to crises.

The Presidency concluded that it would prepare conclusions for the General Affairs Council in the light of the Ministers’ debate.

An Ad hoc Working Party was created to specifically prepare draft Council conclusions.

 

Enlargement and stabilisation and association process

Ministers will exchange views on the state of play of the enlargement and stabilisation and association processes.

This exchange comes after the Western Balkans Summit, the publication of the enlargement package by the Commission and the discussions in the Foreign Affairs Council on the Western Balkans.

Ministers will reflect on how best to take enlargement forward.

The Council reached an agreement last semester on applying the enhanced enlargement methodology to Montenegro and to Serbia, making it possible to hold the first “political” intergovernmental conferences with both countries in June.

Also in September the Council gave the final green light to almost 14.2 billion euro of pre- accession financial assistance for the period 2021–2027 in favour of the Western Balkans partners and Turkey.

EU enlargement

EU-Western Balkans summit

2021 Enlargement package (European Commission)

 

EU – UK relations

European affairs ministers will assess the state of play of EU-UK relations. They will focus in particular on the ongoing talks with the UK regarding practical solutions within the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland to address the difficulties that people in Northern Ireland have been experiencing.

On 13 October 2021, the European Commission presented a comprehensive flexibility package to help minimise disruption caused by Brexit and to help facilitate the everyday life of communities in Northern Ireland. This followed extensive discussions over the previous months with the UK government, as well as outreach by the European Commission to political leaders, businesses, civil society and other stakeholders in Northern Ireland.

The package is composed of four non-papers on customs checks, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, supply of medicines and Northern Irish involvement in the governance of the Protocol. It proposes a different model for the implementation of the Protocol, in which the flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland – in respect of goods destined to stay in Northern Ireland – is facilitated to a significant extent. This facilitation is enabled by a series of safeguards and increased market surveillance to ensure the goods do not move into the EU’s single market.

Since then, a number of meetings between the EU and the UK have taken place at technical and political level.

Following his meeting with David Frost on 19 November, Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič reiterated the need to shift into a result-oriented mode and to deliver on the issues raised by Northern Irish stakeholders. It is essential that the recent change in tone now leads to joint tangible solutions in the framework of the Protocol.

Vice President Šefčovič and David Frost are expected to meet again this week.

Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland: Commission proposes bespoke arrangements to benefit Northern Ireland (European Commission press release, 13 October)

Press remarks by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič following his meeting with David Frost (19

November 2021)

 

Rule of law dialogue

Ministers will hold a country-specific discussion in the framework of the annual rule of law dialogue with a focus on the situation in Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, and Lithuania. This will be the third round of country-specific discussions after the ones in November 2020 and April 2021.

This exercise is part of the commitment to make the dialogue stronger and more structured, while fully respecting the principles of objectivity, non-discrimination and equal treatment of all Member States. The objective is to have a constructive and open exchange of comments and best practices.

Ministers will devote around half an hour to each of the five Member States, starting with a short introduction by the Commission based on the abstracts and the main findings of the respective country-specific chapter of its 2021 rule of law report. Then, each of the five delegations may wish to present key developments and the particular aspects of its national rule of law framework. This will be followed by a round of comments in which other delegations can share their experiences and best practices in relation to the developments mentioned.

2021 Rule of law report (European Commission)

 

EU Commission’s work programme for 2022

The Commission will present its work programme for 2022 to the Council. This input will contribute to the development of the joint declaration on legislative priorities for 2022 that will be agreed by the three institutions later this year.

In 2016, the Council, the European Parliament, and the Commission agreed to reinforce the Union’s annual and multiannual programming through the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making.

According to this agreement, the Commission should engage in a dialogue with the Council and the Parliament, both before and after the adoption of its annual work programme.

The key new initiatives for 2022 were set out in the Commission’s letter of intent of 15 September 2021 and were based on the Commission’s annual strategic foresight report of 8 September 2021.

At the General Affairs Council meeting on 21 September 2021, further to the presentation made by the Commission of its letter of intent and strategic report, Ministers held an exchange of views with European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič.

On 6 October 2021, the Presidency sent a letter to the President of the Commission summarising the debate under seven headings: single market, the economy and taxation; green and digital transitions; health and social policy; justice and home affairs; democracy and the rule of law; the role of the EU in the world; and security, defence and external borders.

The presentation might serve to identify elements that the Council will want to see reflected in the Joint Declaration on legislative priorities for 2022.

Strategic foresight report (European Commission)

Letter of intent with regard to the preparation of the Commission Work Programme 2022

Source – EU Council