Many difficult topics notwithstanding, yesterday's General Affairs Council was able to make progress. Minister of State for Europe Roth, who chaired the meeting within the framework of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU, stressed:
The EU is able to act in the most difficult of times – we have proven that. We have made it clear that we will shoulder any tests and trials together in a spirit of solidarity.
Coordination of coronavirus measures
An important topic of the Council meeting was inter-European coordination during the coronavirus pandemic. Here, EU member states were able to adopt a Council recommendation on a coordinated approach that regulates how states work together on measures to prevent the spread of SARS-COV-2. In this important first step, the ministers agreed to a common database for restrictive measures and a map utilising a traffic-light system. These measures will provide citizens a better overview in the future of where and how they can travel within Europe.
Minister of State Roth stressed that this agreement is a first point of entry towards EU-wide coordination. Germany will continue to advocate for even better and closer coordination within the EU. One of the main objectives of this coordination is to maintain freedom of movement within the Schengen area, despite the pandemic.
Further information on the Council recommendations regarding measures against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic can be found on the website of the Council of the EU:
First rule-of-law dialog
For the first time, ministers at the General Affairs Council held a new “EU rule-of-law dialog”. On the basis of a report on the state of the rule of law in the EU and in its member states, they began with general discussions on the rule of law in the EU. Talks about the situation in individual countries are slated to begin in November. The systematic review should also continue after the German Presidency.
Before the start of the meeting, Minister of State Roth stressed the importance of the new format:
This is a big step forward on the path towards coming to a common understanding of the rule of law in the European Union once again.
More information on Germany's commitment to the rule of law in the EU can be found here.
Difficult Brexit negotiations
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator for Brexit, briefed ministers on the state of play of negotiations with the British government. Just 100 days before the end of the transition period, negotiations between the EU and Great Britain are hardly making progress. The ministers agreed to four points for the EU's continued approach:
- EU member states remain united behind Michel Barnier's efforts and support him in the negotiations.
- Negotiations at EU level will continue in a factual and constructive manner. No new negotiating lines will be opened between EU member states and the United Kingdom.
- The aim remains to fully implement the withdrawal agreement and in particular the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
- While the EU continues to work at full speed towards a solution, the EU and its member states will intensify their contingency planning for a no-deal scenario.