The Lithuanian Presidency’s first month: Council agreements for the benefit of the European Union

22 October 2013, Last updated at, 17:30 EEST
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The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Linas Linkevičius, has said that the agreements reached during the first month of the Lithuanian Presidency are very important to the European Union. Such achievements also demonstrate that Lithuania has proven able to find consensus between Member States.

“The first month of the Lithuanian Presidency has shown that we can find solutions essential to Lithuania and the European Union. We have proven fully capable of carrying out the duties of the Presidency. The negotiating teams have done a great job. The results of July and the opportunity to prepare in August are stepping stones to an even more intensive autumn,” said Minister Linkevičius.

The first two Councils of the Lithuanian Presidency took place in Brussels in July. The Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) and the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH) were respectively chaired by the Minister of Finances, Rimantas Šadžius, and the Minister of Agriculture, Vigilijus Jukna.

ECOFIN has adopted legislation on Latvia’s entry to the euro zone on January 1, 2014 and country-specific recommendations, so concluding the 2013 European Semester process. The first tranche of the EU 2013 amending budget, amounting to EUR 7.3 billion, was also formally agreed.

AGRIFISH agreed on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Trialogues between the Council Presidency, the European Parliament and the European Commission on this legislation are planned to start in the autumn.

On behalf of Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Minister of Foreign Affairs Linkevičius headed the EU delegation in the meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and chaired the EU–Kazakhstan Cooperation Council in Brussels.

Lithuanian representatives chaired 244 meetings of working parties of the Council in July. Among them, 43 meetings were held in the area of justice and home affairs, 26 meetings in the field of external relations, development cooperation and defence, and 25 meetings in both the areas of economic and financial affairs, and transport, telecommunications and energy.

Ambassador Raimundas Karoblis, the Permanent Representative of Lithuania in the European Union, chaired four meetings of the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper II), and ambassador-at-large Arūnas Vinčiūnas chaired four meetings of the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper I).

One key achievement of the Lithuanian Presidency in the Coreper II area is the agreement on the Council position on the EU annual budget for 2014, achieved in a very short time, which paves the way to start negotiations with the European Parliament. The agreement was achieved at expert level and adopted in the Coreper II, without the need for the planned Budget ECOFIN meeting.

“The start of the Presidency was unusually intensive; correspondingly, results started coming faster. The tempo was dictated by the tasks ahead: we must conclude negotiations on funding programmes, banking union and the single market. The Presidency team has prepared well for those tasks; yet the reality has proven to be even more complicated. In certain areas, the Presidency has not started according to the plan and Presidency agenda, but we have handled unexpected issues successfully,” said Ambassador Karoblis.

Responding to requests of Member States, Coreper II on July 5 agreed on the meeting of the EU representatives with the US delegation to discuss data protection issues on July 8 in Washington. On July 18, the composition and remit of the ad hoc working group on data protection issues was agreed, as well as the coordination of information among Member States discussing issues of their national competence with the US. The first meeting of the working group with the US delegation took place in Brussels on July 22–23. Meetings in Washington and Brussels were co-chaired by the Lithuanian Presidency.

Coreper II has also discussed inclusion of the Hezbollah military wing in the list of terrorist organisations. After the political decision in the Foreign Affairs Council, legislation was prepared in the working group of Foreign Relations Counsellors, chaired by the Lithuanian Presidency.

The Presidency has also brought to the attention of Coreper II Member States the plans to introduce additional clearance measures for the TIR procedure by the Federal Customs Service of Russia. EU Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta has sent a letter with a request to reconsider the application of these measures.

The Committee has validated the outcomes of negotiations with the European Parliament on parts of the Cohesion Legislative Package, and achieved a partial general approach on the macroeconomic conditionalities of cohesion funding. The Lithuanian Presidency is to start negotiations with Parliament in autumn.

After the Commission presented its proposal on the Single Resolution Mechanism, the Committee agreed on the formation of an ad hoc working group. The group started discussions on the proposal on July 19.

The Coreper I part of the Permanent Representatives Committee has achieved agreement on eight initiatives including programmes of the EU multiannual financial framework, such as Horizon 2020, a Framework Programme for Research and Innovation for 2014–2020 on investment in research and innovation, Creative Europe, a programme promoting the implementation of culture and audio-visual projects, EaSI, a programme for employment and social innovation, the Customs-2020 programme, and the Connecting Europe Facility, CEF, a very important initiative that will contribute to the creation of an EU single market in energy, transport and telecommunications.

COREPER I has also agreed on a comprehensive public procurement reform package aimed at promoting competitive, innovation-based economic growth, creation of new jobs, and more rational use of public finances. Coreper I has also approved the final agreement with the European Parliament, achieved during the Lithuanian Presidency, on rules for monitoring trade between the EU and third countries for drug precursors.

COREPER I has also approved the mandate to start trialogue negotiations with the European Parliament on the Collective Management of Copyrights and Related Rights.

The EU Trade Policy Committee, chaired by the Lithuanian Presidency, achieved consensus on July 26 on the provisional application of the Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine prior to its full ratification. If Ukraine fulfils the EU criteria, the Agreement is expected to be signed during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. As the summit approaches, the Commission has also concluded negotiations on similar agreements with Georgia and Armenia.

During the first month of the Presidency, Presidency representatives took part in negotiations on legislation with representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission in 33 trialogues. More than 130 preparatory meetings for Councils, Permanent Representatives Committees and working parties were held.

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