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Preparing for the final stretch of the Presidency, and looking ahead

Minister of State for Europe Roth at the last virtual, informal meeting of the General Affairs Council during Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Minister of State for Europe Roth at the last virtual, informal meeting of the General Affairs Council during Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, © Federal Foreign Office

08.12.2020 - Article

Michael Roth will chair the last informal General Affairs Council meeting of the German Presidency, which will be held as a video conference.

The Ministers for European Affairs intend to discuss and coordinate their positions on a wide range of issues today, because – as Germany's Presidency of the Council of the European Union draws to a close – many, often challenging topics remain on their agenda. Top priorities are preparations for the European Council meeting at the end of this week, as well as plans for the year ahead.

The future of EU-UK relations and the coronavirus

The European Commission and the Government of the United Kingdom are still engaged in negotiations on their future relationship. Even after many weeks of talks, a breakthrough has not been achieved – and another meeting has been scheduled. At their meeting today, Ministers for European Affairs will most likely discuss the options that remain for reaching a solution. Yet one thing is clear: the European Union wants to conclude an agreement – because this would be in both sides’ interest – but it will not do so at all costs.

The EU has made important progress in the fight against the coronavirus. Promising vaccines have been developed with the help of many European companies and scientists. So there is now a possibility that, in the foreseeable future, all European citizens who want to can be vaccinated. The EU has committed itself to global solidarity and to being part of the effort to distribute vaccines around the world to countries that are in particular need of assistance. During their meeting, Ministers will also discuss complex issues in connection with distribution and planning, with a view to enabling more rapid testing and more widespread distribution of vaccines.

Addressing climate protection, strengthening democracies and setting legislative priorities

In preparation for the European Council meeting, Roth and his colleagues will also discuss climate policy. At the Council meeting, the EU wants to agree on a reduction of CO2 emissions by 55% by the year 2030. Not only is this an ambitious target, but it will also require an economic transformation that, in turn, will create a great number of opportunities. For the German Government, it is clear that Europe should remain a global leader in climate protection. This is also significant considering the newly-elected Government in the United States.

The European Commission has issued an Action Plan to strengthen European democracies. The objective is to better protect elections from influence exerted by external actors, to promote the diversity and freedom of the media and to counter disinformation. Today, Roth and his colleagues will discuss how these efforts can be implemented and enhanced in every member state. Another long-term topic on today’s agenda is that the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are currently discussing what legislative priorities they should set – not only for the year ahead, but for the first time also for the medium term until 2024. This sends the clear message that, even while addressing the pandemic, the EU is not losing sight of other urgent issues, such as climate policy, the digital transformation and relations with Africa. The latter will be highlighted on Wednesday when, in the context of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel will participate in a video conference that will bring together EU Heads of State and Government with representatives of the African Union.

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