On May 21, 2019, Minister Delegate for European Affairs George Ciamba, in his capacity as representative of the Council Presidency, chaired the General Affairs Council meeting held in Brussels.
A topical item on the agenda of the meeting was the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, which the ministers for European affairs of the EU Member States approached from the angle of the external dimension of the EU budget, with accent being laid on the European Development Fund and the instruments designed to support the EU action in the neighbourhood countries. The discussion is a follow-up to the thematic debates that the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU has scheduled for the General Affairs Council meetings of this semester, in order to lay the ground for the EU leaders’ discussions in the European Council of June 20-21. The discussion on the external dimension of the EU budget was the last thematic debate organised by the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU before the final drafting of a reviewed document that would underpin the discussions of the leaders in June.
The exchange of opinions emphasised the Member States’ convergent opinions on the importance of a stronger external action of the Union, which the future Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 should mirror accordingly. However, the Member States held divergent positions on the architecture of the Union’s external action instruments, including on the European Development Fund and on the instrument designed to deliver on the EU’s neighbourhood policy objectives.
In line with the common practice, the ministers for European affairs had a first exchange of opinions in preparation of the agenda of the European Council of June 20-21, which would include topics such as the next institutional cycle, the Multiannual Financial Framework and climate change, as well as aspects regarding the European Semester, disinformation and the EU enlargement.
In connection to the discussions on the next EU institutional cycle, the ministers for European affairs pointed to the prospect of adopting the future Strategic Agenda of the EU at the European Council of June 2019 and to the need of reaching a consensus on the leadership of the EU institutions soon after the elections, in order to ensure a seamless transition between the two institutional cycles. In connection to the Union’s future budget, the ministers for European Affairs highlighted their support for the ongoing efforts made by the Romanian Council Presidency in order to prepare a reviewed version of the negotiation document to be approached by EU leaders in June, in line with the decisions made at the Council of December 2018.
In the context of the talks on the preparation of the upcoming European Council, the ministers pointed out that the Member States were interested in the topic of enlargement, also considering that the European Commission would publish a new Enlargement Package by the end of May and that the General Affairs Council Conclusions of June 2018 referred to the need of resuming the topic and taking decisions thereon in June 2019.
With respect to other topics included on the agenda of the General Affairs Council, the minister delegate for European affairs reviewed the outcomes of the Conference on the European Semester, which took place in Bucharest on April 4, 2019.
The representative of the European Commission delivered a presentation of the Commission Communication on “Further strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union. State of play and possible next steps”. In that context, the representative of the European Commission pointed out that the Commission intended to present a new Communication on the outcomes of the public consultation on that topic by the end of June. In connection to its contents, the Communication was designed as an inventory of the measures provided in the Treaties in order to adequately safeguard the rule of law in any EU initiative and also as a starting point for a reflection on establishing a consistent frame of action across the Member States.
The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU presented the conclusions of the ministerial meeting on the European cultural heritage, co-chaired with France, which was held in Paris on May 3, 2019. In that context, the minister delegate emphasised the importance of the discussions taking place at the Paris event, which focused on the instruments and the means of strengthening cooperation and the exchange of good practice among the Member States with regard to crisis management, an example being the management of the fire that affected Notre Dame of Paris.