Minister Cerar: EU should give green light to both North Macedonia and Albania
Foreign Minister Dr Miro Cerar was in Luxembourg attending a General Affairs Council (Art. 50) meeting on the state of play regarding the UK’s forthcoming withdrawal from the EU and a General Affairs Council session. The latter concentrated on enlargement and on preparations for the European Council.
During the EU-27 morning session, the EU’s main negotiator Michel Barnier briefed ministers and state secretaries on the latest developments in talks with the UK concerning a possible new version of the Brexit agreement. He said that the run up to the European Council on 17 and 18 October would be crucial for working out a legal draft of any new deal. The next item on the ministers’ agenda was the preparation of the European Council (Art. 50). In the discussion they reiterated their support for the Commission and its chief negotiator, and unanimously confirmed the bloc’s unity in upholding the EU’s interests in talks with the UK.
The General Affairs Council held a lengthy debate on enlargement, the stabilisation and association process, and draft Council conclusions on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. Minister Cerar firmly advocated the start of negotiations with both countries according to an individual, merit-based approach.
Following a negative vote on this matter in the Council, the Slovenian Foreign Minister expressed regret that he and his colleagues were unable to reach an agreement on giving the green light for accession talks. If the upcoming leaders’ summit fails to adopt any positive decisions, the EU’s credibility and its reputation will be at stake, he warned, adding that any consequences in terms of destabilising the region would be the EU’s responsibility.
Much of the preparations for the October European Council session focused on the 2021–2027 Multiannual Financial Framework. Minister Cerar urged for an agreement on the next EU budget to be reached by the end of the year and backed the original Commission’s proposal setting the total sum at EUR 1,135 billion or 1.11% of the EU-27 GNI. In his view, any smaller amount would be insufficient to finance the response to emerging challenges facing the EU.
The cohesion policy being a fundamental priority for Slovenia, the Minister upheld the cohesion envelope as proposed by the Commission, which also includes funds for combating climate change and fostering economic convergence, growth and social inclusion. The Minister was firmly against the large cut in rural development funding and funds allocated to Western Slovenia, noting the importance of statistical data in calculating the cohesion envelopes for the 2014–2018 period. Concerning the conditioning of the EU budget, he supported the rule-of-law regulation and voiced his opposition to any further rebates.
The General Affairs Council also discussed other items on the European Council agenda. On Thursday and Friday, EU heads of state and government will consider institutional topics, climate change and enlargement, and address current foreign policy issues.
Under AOB, the Council was briefed on the seminar on the future of EU transparency organised by the Finnish Presidency in Brussels on 24 September.