Robin Walker – 2019 Statement on the General Affairs Council

Below is the text of the statement made by Robin Walker, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, in the House of Commons on 25 April 2019.

The UK and the EU have agreed an extension to Article 50, until 31 October 2019, which is legally binding in EU and international law. Until we leave the European Union, we remain committed to fulfilling our rights and obligations as a full Member State, and continue to act in good faith.​

I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Luxembourg on 9 April 2019. A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2019/04/09/

Multiannual Financial Framework 2021 – 2027

The presidency presented a progress report outlining the latest developments on negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) – related sectorial proposals. The presidency also highlighted that common understandings have been reached with the European Parliament (EP) on ten sectorial files. Cohesion and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) continued to be the central pillars of the next MFF. However, the Commission noted that the proposed cuts to Cohesion and CAP were unavoidable due to the loss of the UK’s contribution.

The Cohesion fund aims to reduce economic and social disparities and to promote sustainable development. Ministers discussed how the Cohesion policy and CAP can best support EU priorities. Some member states criticised the proposed cuts and supported maintaining funding for transition regions (where GDP per capita falls between 75% and 90% of the EU average). Other member states advocated for a stronger link of funds to the EU’s core business, such as tackling climate change, rule of law and migration. There was general agreement that cohesion funding should be predictable, whilst allowing for a level of flexibility to manage unexpected events.

Ministers agreed that the funding priorities should be modernisation of the agricultural industry and securing support for young farmers. Some member states proposed a set target for expenditure contributing to climate change goals, while incentivising farmers to meet the goals.

Conclusions on the Reflection Paper “Towards a sustainable Europe by 2030”

Ministers adopted conclusions on the EU’s implementation of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are targets in 17 priority areas agreed between the members of the UN in 2015, with the aim of making the world a more sustainable place to live. The Council agreed that the SDGs are a key aspect of the EU’s Strategic Agenda 2019-2024, making clear reference to “leave no one behind”.

The Council’s conclusions recognised the importance of the SDGs for the EU, stated that the UN 2030 Agenda was an overarching priority for the EU and stressed that it was in the EU’s interest to play a leading role in its implementation, recognising that delivery of this agenda is necessarily a shared responsibility between all stakeholders.

Values of the Union – Hungary /Article 7(1) TEU Reasoned Proposal

The Commission provided an update on the most recent developments regarding EU values in Hungary. Ministers discussed values of the Union in relation to Hungary.

Rule of Law in Poland / Article 7(1) TEU Reasoned Proposal

The Commission provided an update on the rule of law cases in Poland before the European Court of Justice, and its most recent infraction notification against Poland’s disciplinary procedures for ordinary judges. The presidency stated that the Council would return to the issue.