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General Affairs Council, 23 November 2021

Met dank overgenomen van Raad van de Europese Unie (Raad), gepubliceerd op dinsdag 23 november 2021, 20:00.

Main results

European Council on 16-17 December 2021

Ministers held a first exchange of views on 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 again at the developments in energy prices as agreed in October.

Following the informal dinner in Brdo and the Foreign Affairs Council 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 as well as 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.

Conclusions on resilience and crisis response

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

We started working on shoring up the EU's preparedness for crises on day one of our presidency. Today's conclusions agreed by member states are an important step forward on our common path to build back a more resilient Europe together.

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

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 took stock of the state of play and held an exchange of views on the enlargement and stabilisation and association process. The presidency underlined the importance of furthering the enlargement and stabilisation and association process.

It is our priority as presidency to try to bring the enlargement and stabilisation and association process forward. The EU enlargement policy is the key policy that has transformative power in the Western Balkans region. This is why the progress on the EU path must be unlocked.

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

The exchange among ministers came 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 reflected 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.

Rule of law dialogue

Ministers held 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 was the third round of country-specific discussions after the ones in November 2020 and April 2021.

Rule of law is a corner stone and the guarantor of our rights and freedoms. This discussion allowed us to face challenges before they become an issue. We maintained our commitment to make the rule-of-law dialogue stronger and more structured, while fully respecting the principles of objectivity, non-discrimination and equal treatment of all member states. This country-specific discussion is an opportunity for all of us to exchange best practices.

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

Ministers devoted 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 presented key developments and the particular aspects of its national rule of law framework. This was followed by a round of comments in which other delegations shared their experiences and best practices in relation to the developments mentioned.

EU-UK relations

European affairs ministers held a discussion on EU-UK relations. They focused 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.

European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič updated ministers on the latest developments, including his meeting with David Frost on 19 November, and ministers reiterated their support to the European Commission's approach.

The EU highlights 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. The presidency also stressed that the unity among member states remains a cornerstone of the EU relations and negotiations with the UK.

Commission’s work programme for 2022

The Commission presented its work programme for 2022. 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.

EU budget 2022

The Council adopted the 2022 EU budget following an agreement reached with the European Parliament on 16 November 2021. Next year’s budget sets total commitments at €169,5 billion and payments at €170,6 billion. Next year’s budget strongly reflects the EU’s main priorities: economic recovery, fighting climate change, and the green and digital transitions. It also leaves enough resources under the expenditure ceilings of the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework to allow the EU to react to unforeseeable needs.

Meeting information

  • Meeting n°3829
  • Brussels
  • 23 November 2021
  • 09:30

Preparatory documents

Outcome documents

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