Wednesday, 9 December 2009

EU General Affairs Council results 7 to 8 December 2009

The conclusions of the 2984th meeting of the EU Council, General Affairs (GAC), on 7 December 2009 have now been posted on the Consilium web site (document 17217/09; 25 pages).



The GAC web page of the Swedish EU Council presidency has some information about the results of the meeting.



Monday’s general press release EU ministers prepared for the last summit under the Swedish EU presidency offered a brief recapitulation of the main issues. Tuesday’s press release EU concerned over lack of progress in Middle East peace process presented a summary of the foreign policy questions dealt with during the FAC meeting, as well as the enlargement issues dealt with by the GAC.



There are separate press releases on the financial package for the accession negotiations with Croatia, conclusions regarding a special report by the Court of Auditors, as well as a separate issue of the conclusions on the enlargement process.

***


Here are some highlights with personal reflections.


Foreign ministers

The Lisbon Treaty split the former General Affairs and External Relations Council configuration (GAERC) into two separate formations: the General Affairs Council (GAC) and the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC).

In practice, the list of participants was dominated by ministers for foreign affairs, although in many cases accompanied by ministers or state secretaries for European affairs.

Was it because of the enlargement questions, or is this going to be the model, at least for the GAC meetings preparing the European Council?

If the foreign ministers become a permanent fixture, we can ask: What was the object of the Lisbon Treaty exercise?


European Council

The main task of the GAC was to prepare the meeting of the European Council Thursday 10 and Friday 11 December 2009. The draft conclusions will be reviewed by the Swedish Council presidency in the light of the GAC discussions (so no published document there to steal the limelight).


Presidency trio 2010 to 2011



The draft 18 month programme of the Council presidency trio of Spain, Belgium and Hungary, from 1 January 2010 to 30 June 2011, was presented and published (link to document 16771/09; 89 pages).

The first part of the programme presents the strategic framework, and the second part is the operational programme, which sets out practically every major policy issue expected to surface during the coming one and a half years.

Even if programmes and presidencies are sometimes overtaken by events, both Council and Commission programmes are worth reading for people with a serious interest in EU affairs.


Enlargement

The GAC adopted conclusions on the enlargement strategy, including individual statements on Turkey, Croatia, Iceland, and the Western Balkans.

Points 32 and 33 seem to indicate that the former Athenian Republic of the Greek peninsula (aka Hellenic Republic or Greece) is still blocking the start of accession negotiations for the Republic of Macedonia under its real name.

It is hard to say what is more absurd: stubborn Greek allegations that a historic name entails territorial claims, or Greece’s willingness to use veto powers against the opinion of the major part of the international community.

By the way, if and when all countries on the road to accession become EU members, the unanimity problems and the huge over-representation of the smallest member states will seriously hurt the European Union’s ambitions to speak with one voice in the world, and to act as one. The Lisbon Treaty is clearly inadequate as it is, but have our leaders told us that?



Ralf Grahn



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