Brussels (13 December) - "At the beginning of its first-ever Presidency of the Council of the EU i, Slovakia has pledged to focus on both, positive agenda and strengthening the EU for the benefit of all its citizens. At the end, I believe we have fulfilled this ambition," said Miroslav Lajčák, Slovak Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, chairing the final General Affairs Council under the Slovak Presidency.
“We have reaffirmed our commitment to enlargement as a key policy of the EU and a strategic investmentin stability, democracy and prosperity in Europe."
European fund for sustainable development
The Council adopted its negotiating position on the European fund for sustainable development, bringing it a step closer to reality.
Slovak Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and President of the Council Miroslav Lajčák said: "This fund is a vital instrument which aims in particular at tackling the root causes of irregular migration. It seeks to create job opportunities, encourage investments and facilitate sustainable development in partner countries in Africa, as well as in the European neighbourhood. It is now crucial to speed up the negotiations with the European Parliament to launch the fund swiftly."
EU priorities for 2017
The Council approved the EU's legislative priorities for 2017, focused on six main areas:
-jobs, growth, investments
-reform of the migration policy
-digital single market
-energy and climate
"This is the first time that the EU has established a set of common legislative priorities for the following year. This will help us make progress in areas where it is most needed," said Minister M. Lajčák
December European Council
The Council finalised preparations for the European Council of 15 December 2016 by discussing draft conclusions. At their meeting on 15 December EU leaders will address four items:
-migration, where they will assess the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement, the partnership frameworks concluded with the first African countries and the state of play in the reform of the EU asylum rules
-security, with a focus on the implementation of the security agenda and EU cooperation on external security and defence
-economic and social development, youth, where they will take stock of progress on the European fund for strategic investments and on the fight against youth unemployment
-external relations with a focus on the Netherlands referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement
The Council discussed the enlargement and stabilisation and association process, following which the presidency noted that there was no consensus allowing for the adoption of Council conclusions on this issue. The presidency therefore drew up a set of conclusions which received the support of the overwhelming majority of delegations in the course of the discussions.
Minister M. Lajčák said: “We have reaffirmed our commitment to enlargement as a key policy of the EU and a strategic investmentin stability, democracy and prosperity in Europe. We attach great importance to the credibility of enlargement as a two-way process - if a country delivers on the necessary reforms, the EU has to deliver on its commitments."