Uutinen 4.12.2009

General Affairs Council to discuss European Council preparations and EU enlargement

Government Communications Unit
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Press Release 368/2009
4 December 2009

The EU General Affairs Council (GAC) will meet in Brussels on Monday 7 December. Main themes of the meeting include preparations for the European Council, and EU enlargement. Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors and Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb will represent Finland at the meeting.

With the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council was divided into two, forming the General Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs Council. In accordance with the division of duties in the Government, the Minister of European Affairs and, in issues pertaining to enlargement, the Foreign Minister will represent Finland at the General Affairs Council.

Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the main function of the General Affairs Council is to prepare for European Council meetings. The December European Council is to focus on the Copenhagen conference on climate change. Finland aims at reaching an ambitious and comprehensive agreement in Copenhagen. The EU should decide on a clear negotiating mandate and establish a schedule that aims, as far as possible, at finalising a legally binding agreement within six months. It is particularly important to reach agreement on short-term climate finance. EU Heads of State or Government will also consider the issue of adopting a more stringent emission reduction target, and discuss the economic, financial and employment situation. The previous General Affairs Council made preparations for the European Council on further measures with regard to the Lisbon Strategy and on the Sustainable Development Strategy.

The Council is to adopt conclusions on EU membership candidates and the Western Balkan countries. In October, the Commission released its annual enlargement package including an enlargement strategy along with progress reports on candidate countries and potential candidate countries. Enlargement has strengthened democracy and promoted the development of rule of law in Europe. It has also increased the Union’s capabilities to respond to global challenges. Finland supports the conclusions of the Commission’s enlargement package and highlights the importance of keeping to the enlargement consensus adopted in 2006. Finland also supports the Commission’s proposal to open accession negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The Ministers will be presented with the 18-month programme of the Council, prepared by Spain, Belgium and Hungary. The Union’s key challenges include further measures with regard to the Lisbon Strategy, the reform of financial supervision, the social agenda, and the implementation of the climate and energy package and that of the Stockholm Programme.

Further information: Sanna Ek, Adviser, EU Affairs, Government Secretariat for EU Affairs, tel. +358 9 1602 2150 and Juha Ottman, Director, Unit for EU Enlargement and Western Balkans, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 5784