General Affairs Council, 21 September 2021

Source: Council of the European Union (Council) i, published on Tuesday, September 21 2021, 21:30.

Main results

Ministers assessed the state of play in EU-UK relations, in light of recent events regarding the implementation of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič updated ministers on the latest developments, including his recent visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland, and ministers reiterated their support to the European Commission's approach.

They highlighted the need to identify long-term, flexible and practical solutions to address the issues experienced by citizens and businesses in relation to the practical implementation of the protocol, while respecting the principles underpinning the protocol. They reiterated that the EU will not agree to a renegotiation of the protocol, which is the agreed solution between the UK and the EU to the problems caused by Brexit for the island of Ireland.

The EU will continue to engage with the UK to find solutions within the framework of the protocol. We will do our utmost to bring back predictability and stability for the citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland and to ensure they can make the most of the opportunities provided by the protocol, including access to the single market.

Gašper Dovžan, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia

EU COVID-19 coordination

Ministers exchanged views on the EU coordination on COVID-19 after the summer break. They discussed vaccination-related issues and travel measures.

It is crucial for the member states to continue providing a transparent and coordinated response to the pandemic and raising the rate of vaccination coverage of the population in order to resume normal life.

Gašper Dovžan, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia

Among the subjects discussed today, booster vaccines or additional doses were mentioned, as well as the need to address vaccine hesitancy and vaccine disinformation and the importance of vaccine sharing with third countries.

On travel measures coordination, work is now underway to consider whether a revision is necessary to take account of the present situation (inter alia, high vaccination rates, evolving epidemiological situation and experience of COVID certificates).

European Council meeting on 21-22 October

Ministers had a first exchange about the annotated draft agenda for the 21-22 October European Council: coordination of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, review progress on digital issues, preparations for COP26 in Glasgow (climate) and COP15 in Kunming (biodiversity) and for upcoming summits with third countries, such as with the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and the Eastern Partnership among other subjects.

Conference on the Future of Europe

The presidency gave an update on the Conference on the Future of Europe, after the launch of the European citizens' panels on 17 September and in the run-up to the October plenary. Delegations had the opportunity to exchange views on these issues.

Slovenian presidency priorities

During a public session, the Slovenian presidency presented its overall priorities, as well as those falling within the remit of the General Affairs Council.

Legislative programming

During a public debate, the Commission presented the 2021 Strategic Foresight Report and its letter of intent.

Other business

The Commission updated ministers on EU-Switzerland relations. There was also an information point on the EU-MED summit of last Friday in Athens.

Meeting information

  • Meeting n°3812
  • Brussels
  • 21 September 2021
  • 10:00

Preparatory documents

Outcome documents