On 21 June, the Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, will travel to Luxembourg to represent Ireland at a meeting of the General Affairs Council (GAC).
The main item at this month’s General Affairs Council meeting will be preparation for the European Council meeting on 23/24 June. At that meeting, leaders will discuss the situation in Ukraine; Wider Europe and the Membership applications of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia; Economic issues; the Western Balkans; and the Conference on the Future of Europe. There will also be a be an EU-Western Balkans Leaders’ meeting on 23 June, in advance of the European Council meeting.
At the GAC meeting, the French Presidency will provide an update on the Regulation on the transparency and targeting of political advertising. There will be an exchange of views on the way forward as regards the proposals of the Conference on the Future of Europe and Ministers are expected to approve the country-specific recommendations for the European Semester 2022.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Minister Byrne said:
"This will be a busy meeting of the General Affairs Council as we prepare for the European Council later this week, where leaders will discuss a number of issues, including the ongoing appalling conflict in Ukraine.
“The EU continues to be united in our response to Russia’s illegal, unprovoked and unjustified war. Ireland supports a continued robust EU response to Russia’s appalling violence, including directly against civilians, in Ukraine. We will continue to stand in full solidarity with the Ukrainian Government and people of Ukraine. In relation to Ukraine’s application for EU membership, there is very strong support across the political spectrum in Ireland and we stand ready to provide Ukraine with the necessary political and practical assistance in support of their application.
“This month’s meeting will also discuss the Conference on the Future of Europe. Over 300 recommendations have been proposed by the Conference, spanning a wide range of areas, including health, democracy, rule of law and the environment. The priority now is effective follow-up of the Conference final report. There is much which can already be done within the existing framework and policies to implement the citizens’ recommendations. Ireland intends to work closely with our EU Partners to ensure that this process will deliver benefits for all the Union’s citizens.
“Vice-President Šefčovič will also update Member States on the Protocol on Northern Ireland following the publication of UK legislation. I know that my EU counterparts around the Council table will share our deep concern at the UK Government’s approach on the Protocol. They will see this as a most egregious breach of an internationally binding agreement which the EU reached with the UK just two years ago. Trust between the EU and the UK has been further damaged.
"The EU has made clear that it remains open to working with the UK to find solutions to the genuinely held concerns of people and business in Northern Ireland. I once again urge the UK to return to good faith talks with the EU. Only a jointly agreed solution can bring stability and certainty for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.”