The informal meeting of the General Affairs Council was supposed to take place in the city of Wiesbaden and at the Eberbach Monastery (pictured), the home region of German Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth. Instead of this though, his EU colleagues will now experience a short virtual tour at their informal meeting. Once every Council Presidency – that is, every six months – the ministers for European affairs meet to discuss urgent current matters as well as long-running topics of interest.

German Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth © Thomas Trutschel

Tomorrow Minister of State Roth wants to focus on the future of Europe. That is why, together with the Schwarzkopf Foundation and the European Youth Parliament, he has invited 27 young European ambassadors from 24 different countries to take part in a discussion. The participants are all under 30 and will present their theses on topics like environmental protection, energy, the politics of asylum and digitalisation, that they have previously prepared.

Also taking part in this discussion will be Maros Sefcovic, European Commission Vice-President responsible for interinstitutional relations and foresight, and Dubravka Suica, European Commission Vice-President responsible for democracy and demography.

The exchange with the younger generation is particularly important to Minister of State Roth. It promises to be a taste of what is to come at the Conference on the Future of Europe. The ministers for European affairs will be updated on preparations for this. Member states and EU institutions want to use this process of dialogue, over the next year and a half, to ask citizens how they would like to see Europe develop in the long term.

Europe united against COVID-19

If one compares the first wave of COVID-19 infections in Europe, it is clear member states have learned a lot and have improved contact and coordination amongst themselves. At the same time though, the challenges and the need for coordination is still huge, all about protecting the population as much as possible and simultaneously ensuring the economy recovers. Minister of State Roth wants to use this meeting as an opportunity for deeper exchanges on cooperating on the measures to fight COVID-19, with a view to Portugal’s upcoming Council Presidency too.

As was the case at the last informal meeting, West Balkan states will also take part. For the EU, close coordination with partners in this region is particularly important, on questions of the pandemic as well as on topics such as the expansion of the EU and migration.

The cultural programme of the German Council Presidency will also play a part tomorrow: the ministers for European affairs will watch video messages from young people which originated as part of the artwork Earth Speakr by Olafur Eliasson. The photo project, Faces of Europe, and the film competition, Europe in Film, will also be presented.