Update from October General Affairs Council

29th October, 2013

Just back from my October General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting in Luxembourg.

You may recall that one of the purposes of this Council is to prepare for the European Council meetings. The EuropeanCouncil is the occasion where the Heads of Government meet to discuss the work of the EU and common challenges. They are the meetings in which the family photos are taken – where all the Prime Ministers all stand side by side.

The role of the GAC is to prepare the agenda for these meetings.  This was the main topic for discussion today.

So, we all received draft conclusions for the meeting. By this stage the key diplomats in Brussels have already worked on them, representing the views of their countries. The Ministers then review them again and give political input.

The main focus of the October European Council – which, by way, is happening on Thursdayand Friday, is the Digital Market. Our meetings consisted of one session with just Ministers and key diplomats present. This was followed by another session with only Ministers and the President of the European Council (Herman Van Rompuy) participating via video-link.

I contributed in a number of areas:

First – strongly supporting the work on Banking Union, arguing for a robust system that will break the link between the sovereign and banks.

Second – making specific recommendations in relation to the policies for the Digital Market.

Finally – inputting into a discussion regarding changes to the Economic Semester process. This is the method by which national budgets are reviewed by the Commission and by other member states.

I will be attending the European Council with the Taoiseach this week. Another post to follow.
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