General Affairs Council: November and December 2019

Department for Exiting the European Union written statement – made on 20th December 2019.

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Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

General Affairs Council, November 2019

The UK did not attend the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on 19 November 2019.

The UK Government has decided that from 1 September until exit day, UK Ministers and officials will only attend EU meetings where the UK has a significant national interest in the outcome of the discussions.

General Affairs Council, December 2019

Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU, attended the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 10 December 2019 to represent the UK. A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at:

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2019/12/10/#

Values of the Union in Hungary / Article 7 (1) TEU Reasoned Proposal

As part of the Article 7(1) TEU procedure, the Council held a second hearing on Hungary, following the first hearing on 16 September. This hearing focused largely on the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and academic freedom in Hungary.

Rule of Law in Poland / Article 7(1) TEU Reasoned Proposal

The Council discussed the rule of law in Poland. The Commission provided an update to ministers on the latest developments, including the recent judgments of the European Court of Justice concerning Polish rules on the retirement age of judges and public prosecutor, and the new Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court.

Preparation of the European Council on 12-13 December 2019 and European Council follow-up

Ministers continued preparations for the European Council on 12-13 December, and discussed draft Conclusions. Sir Tim Barrow intervened to express the UK’s long-standing support for the EU’s ambition of climate neutrality by 2050. We welcomed the balanced conclusions that demonstrated the importance of EU climate leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting green growth, and in ensuring a just transition to a low emission economy. Sir Tim Barrow also reiterated the UK’s continual support in finding an agreed solution to the current paralysis of the WTO’s mechanism for settling disputes, stressing the importance of language in respect to the WTO, and reinforcing that it was central to trade policy.

Multiannual Financial Framework

The Council held a policy debate on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Ministers discussed the Finnish Presidency’s negotiating box, ahead of the 12-13 December European Council. The Presidency agreed to a 25% target of the EU budget to support climate change initiatives.

European Semester 2020 - Roadmap

As part of the preparation for the next European Semester, the Croatian Presidency presented the 2020 European Semester roadmap. The roadmap’s objective is to ensure that all relevant Councils work in a coordinated manner, with the General Affairs Council designated as the forum for overseeing the process.

Legislative programming - Commission's Work Programme for 2020 and multiannual programming

Ministers exchanged views on priorities for upcoming legislative work under the new Commission. The aim of the discussion was to provide comments to the Commission for the preparation of its 2020 work programme.

Conclusions on complementary efforts to enhance resilience and counter hybrid threats

The Council adopted, without discussion, European Council conclusions which set priorities and guidelines for EU cooperation of countering hybrid threats and enhancing resilience. The conclusions outline the need for a comprehensive approach to these threats, working across all relevant policy sectors to ensure alignment.

AOB: Enlargement

Under any other business, the Commission confirmed to Member States that it would present its proposals on enlargement in January, under the new Presidency.