Minister Byrne to attend meeting of the General Affairs Council

Published on: 17 December 2021

The Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne T.D., will travel to Brussels today for an EU-Montenegro and an EU-Serbia Ministerial level Intergovernmental Conference, and thereafter will represent Ireland at a meeting of the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on 14 December.

The main item at this month’s General Affairs Council meeting will be preparation for the European Council meeting on 16/17 December. At that meeting, Leaders will discuss COVID-19 pandemic; crisis management and resilience; and security and defence issues. The European Council will prepare for the upcoming European Union – African Union Summit and discuss the situation at the EU’s border with Belarus. There will also be a discussion on energy prices and the external aspects of migration.
Ministers at the GAC will also discuss the ongoing Conference on the Future of Europe and the state of play in relation to the rule of law in Poland and the values of the Union in Hungary. Other issues on the agenda include a roadmap for the European Semester 2022 and approval of a Joint Declaration on the EU legislative priorities for 2022. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights will present a report to Ministers in relation to antisemitism. It is also hoped that important Conclusions on Enlargement and Stabilisation and Association Process can be adopted at the Council meeting.
Minister Byrne will also attend an EU-Montenegro Inter-Governmental Council (IGC) on 13 December and an EU-Serbia IGC on 14 December.
Ahead of the meeting, Minister Byrne said:
“This will be a busy meeting of the General Affairs Council as we prepare for the final European Council of the year in Brussels later this week where leaders will discuss a wide range of issues of direct concern to our citizens, including COVID-19, strengthening EU crisis management and resilience, as well as the current rise in energy prices.
"Today’s GAC will see Ministers receive an update about the Conference on the Future of Europe. Whilst the Conference Plenary this month may have been postponed owing to COVID-19, Working Groups will still meet over the coming week to discuss the suggestions that citizens have been making over the last number of months. The first few months of 2022 will be a busy period for the Conference as we work to conclude the formal part of the Conference before the end of the French Presidency next June.
"At the meeting we will receive an important report from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights’ in relation to antisemitism in the European Union. After a very moving visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum last week, I am reminded that we cannot forget the devastating consequences of intolerance in the world. I think it is important that the European Union is to the forefront of tackling antisemitism within the bloc and around the world.
"I will also attend the EU-Montenegro Inter-Governmental Council (IGC) and an EU-Serbia IGC and I look forward to engaging with Serbia and Montenegro to encourage both countries to continue to maintain their ongoing reform efforts as they work to advance their European perspectives. Ireland has benefitted greatly from being part of the EU. I want to see this equality of opportunity extended in due course, once all the necessary conditions are met, to the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro and indeed of all the Western Balkans countries.”

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