Council of Public Affairs – Consilium

Main results

The priorities of the French presidency

The French presidency presented its priorities for the next six months in a public session. European sovereignty was the common denominator.

Legislative package democracy and elections

The Ministers held a policy discussion on the legislative package “Strengthening Democracy and Integrity of Elections”, which was presented by the Commission on November 25, 2021.

This package contains legislative proposals on the transparency of political advertising, the statutes and financing of European political parties, and on the rights of citizens residing in a Member State who are not nationals of it in European and municipal elections.

It must ensure free and fair elections and public debate, greater responsibility for the digital world and better protection of our democracy and our elections against attempts to influence and manipulate information.

The goal is to adopt and implement the legislative package in time for the 2024 European elections.

Discussions focused on increasing transparency and regulating the financing of European political parties and institutions. On the role, visibility and activities of European political parties in public debates in Member States; and voting rights for citizens residing in a Member State who are not its citizens, and political advertising, particularly in the digital sphere.

The presidency has a dual purpose: on the one hand, to find out how to attract more people interested in participating in the European democratic process, and on the other hand, how we can adapt our legislation to new threats to the electoral process, such as information manipulation. and foreign interference.

Clément Bonn, Minister of State in charge of European Affairs

Conference on the future of Europe

The presidency briefed the council on the status of the conference on the future of Europe, the latest developments and prospects.

Ministers had the opportunity to exchange views on the first set of recommendations of the European Citizens Committees, which will meet after the plenary session on January 21-22, and hold the national consultations.

Depending on the evolution of the epidemiological situation, the committees will conclude their work by the end of February 2022, with plenary sessions in March and April. On May 9, the French presidency will conclude the conference with a political statement by the three co-chairs.

COVID-19: Coordination at the European level

Ministers exchanged views on the health situation and national measures, and assessed coordination at the EU level.

The persistent diffusion of the delta variant and the rapid diffusion of the omikron variant remain cause for concern. Therefore, vaccinations and reinforcements must be continued promptly. It is also important to address vaccination suspicions and misinformation.

The General Affairs Council has adopted a revised Recommendation on travel within the European Union. This takes into account the progression of vaccinations and the prevalence of the omicron variable. Instead of an approach based on the epidemiological situation in each region, there is now an individual approach that depends on the condition of each traveler.

Discussions are continuing on the revision of the recommendation for travel to the European Union from third countries.

The council also spoke of international solidarity, as the pandemic can only be overcome through global cooperation based on trust and mutual assistance. The European Union is the world’s largest exporter and donor of vaccines. The Council reiterated the EU’s commitment to intensifying its support to the countries most in need in Africa in particular, both through continued support to Covax and on a bilateral basis, in cooperation with partners.

Relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom

European Affairs Ministers discussed relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

They took up discussions with the United Kingdom on the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol, which focus on practical solutions to specific difficulties people in Northern Ireland face in implementing it. Attention was also paid to the continuing differences in the implementation of the withdrawal agreement in terms of citizens’ rights, and the difficulties encountered in implementing the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, especially with regard to fisheries and fair competition. Finally, the Ministers took stock of the negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom on Gibraltar.

European Commission Vice President Maros Shevsowicz updated ministers on the latest developments, including his meeting with Liz Truss on January 24.

The Ministers reiterated the consensus among Member States and reiterated their full support for the European Commission’s approach.

The Presidency wants to maintain this unity in the principles that have guided relations with the UK thus far and will ensure that the UK fully honors commitments. Member states pledged their support for the search for practical solutions that would facilitate trade in goods with Northern Ireland, in line with agreements with the European Union. They also recognize that the proper implementation of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement needs further assurance.

Clément Bonn, Minister of State in charge of European Affairs

Finally, the Council adopted items “A” of a legislative and non-legislative nature without discussion.

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