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First General Affairs Council of Estonian Presidency lays preparations for European Council meeting in October


Today’s EU General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels focused on preparations for the European Council meeting to be held in October and an exchange of views on the letter of intent from the European Commission. Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas, who chaired the meeting, delivered an overview of the priorities of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU, emphasising that a digital summit to be held in Tallinn a few days from now will provide a good opportunity to better highlight digital innovation needs.

Maasikas emphasised the general shift toward pro-Europe sentiment, saying: “This year, trust in the EU has risen, the economy is growing and we can once again see optimism. The EU’s unity is stronger, we have to maintain it and everyone must act in this interest. Only in this way can we support our citizens and protect society’s stability.

The first General Affairs Council meeting to be held during the Estonian Presidency gave an overview of the activities of the Council of the EU in the six-month period, and discussed both the topics to be addressed at the October European Council meeting and the draft 2018 European Commission work programme, based on the priorities set for 2014-2019 and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s Ten Priorities, including employment, economic growth, the single digital market, cybersecurity, migration policy and the EU’s role at the international level.

The final work programme will be discussed at the General Affairs Council in November, following which negotiations between the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission will begin for agreeing on the legislative priorities for next year.

The dialogue with Poland on the rule of law was under discussion, and Commissioner Frans Timmermans provided an overview on the current situation. Maasikas said: “The topic of the rule of law is important for one and all. It is one of the fundamental principles of the EU, and matters concerning adherence must be resolved in dialogue between the member state and the Commission. All possibilities afforded by dialogue and cooperation must be used for this purpose.”

The General Affairs Council meeting will take place in the afternoon in an EU27 format, where the Commission will provide an overview of the state of play of the negotiations on the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU.

Maasikas said: “It is in the interest of us all to maintain unity of the EU27 in the departure negotiations and maintain close and friendly cooperative relations between the UK and the EU. Much work is ahead of us, and reaching compromises will take time. The key questions of the negotiations such as citizens’ rights, financial agreements and the border with Ireland will still require serious discussions.”

Today, Maasikas will sign a document establishing the European Sustainable Development Fund on behalf of the Council of the EU. The fund will contribute to European foreign investments in the EU’s neighbourhood and in Africa.