11/02/2014 - General Affairs Council (GAC)
Spring European Council to focus on economy, climate and EU-Africa relations
The General Affairs Council prepared the upcoming European Council meeting, which will take place on 20 and 21 March.
The upcoming meeting of the EU heads of state or government will focus on two main topics:
- growth, competitiveness and jobs
- external relations.
Under the first topic, the European Council will conclude the first phase of the 2014 European Semester: it will assess the progress made on implementing the country-specific recommendations that were given to the member states in 2013 and will provide them with guidance on preparing their 2014 Stability programmes or their Convergence programmes and their National reform programmes.
In addition, the leaders will highlight a number of issues relating to industrial competitiveness, such as the cost of energy in industrial production, the skills mismatch, infrastructure development, patenting, global value chains.
They will also hold a policy debate on a framework for climate and energy in 2020-2030.
Discussion on external relations will focus on preparations for the upcoming EU-Africa summit, which will take place on 2 and 3 April. The leaders will hold an in-depth debate on EU relations with Africa.
Other main items on the agenda
The ministers held a discussion on the outcome of a referendum in Switzerland that took place over the weekend. The Council called on Switzerland to respect its obligations relating to the free movement of citizens.
"The Council of European Union respects the internal democratic procedures of Switzerland and the outcome of the referendum. On the other hand, the Council expects the Swiss Confederation to honour its obligations arising from its agreements and treaties with the European Union," said Mr Evangelos Venizelos, Greek Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, who chaired the meeting.
Proposal on placing genetically modified maize on the market
The Council has not reached an agreement either in favour of or against the Commission proposal, which would authorise placing a maize product (Zea mays L., line 1507) on the market for cultivation; the maize product is genetically modified for resistance to certain lepidopteran (butterflies) pests.
The rules require the decision to be taken by the Commission in such cases.
Greek Presidency work programme
The Greek Presidency presented its programme, which was discussed by the Council.
ECB supervisory board vice-chair appointed
The Council adopted a decision appointing Sabine Lautenschläger as vice-chairperson of the newly-created supervisory board of the European Central Bank.
Adoption of directives for the reform of public procurement
The ministers adopted the directives that aim to modernise public procurement in the EU. They will improve a wide range of areas applying to the procurement of goods, works and services.