On 29 May 2012, a meeting of the General Affairs Council was held in Brussels.
The focus of the meeting was the continuation of discussions on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the 2014-2020 period. This was the first meeting in which the full Negotiating Box covering both expenditure and revenue sides of the EU Budget was discussed by Ministers. The Negotiating Box is an important element of the MFF negotiating process because it contains all of the central issues which need to be addressed in order to reach a unanimous agreement and allows for the structuring of these negotiations. To date, the different elements of the Negotiating Box had been discussed separately.
The discussion allowed for all Member States to highlight their respective priorities with regard to the MFF. On the expenditure side, Malta stressed the importance of maintaining a strong Cohesion Policy as this is the key instrument for stimulating economic growth and investment. Malta reiterated the need for Cohesion Policy to be focused on less developed regions and on regions that will exceed the 75% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) threshold in the 2014-2020 period due to a statistical effect. Moreover, Malta called for particular attention to island regions, which due to territorial challenges that are inherent to island regions, namely peripherality and insularity, should also receive additional funding as is indeed the case for the sparsely populated regions in northern Europe.
On the revenue side, Malta stated that a 100% Gross National Income (GNI)-based system would ensure that Member States’ contributions are proportionate to their prosperity and does away with any possibility of one or more Member State being impacted more than the others. With regard to the proposal for an EU Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), Malta highlighted that this should first be applied at a global level before entering into discussions on introducing this tax as a form of revenue in the EU Budget.
Ministers will continue their discussions at an informal meeting in Horsens, Denmark, on 10-11 June and at the next General Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on 26 June. On the basis of these discussions, the upcoming European Council meeting on 28-29 June 2012, which will be attended by the Prime Minister, will hold the first substantial discussion on the MFF; including how best to ensure that it contributes to economic growth.
Ministers also discussed preparations for the above-mentioned European Council meeting which will be held in Brussels on 28-29 June 2012. In addition to discussing the MFF, the European Council is expected to address economic issues including the annual monitoring of budgetary policies and structural reforms, an EU agenda for fostering economic growth and trade and investment with international partners. The European Council will also address progress made on dossiers relating to justice and home affairs, including Schengen governance and asylum.
Finally, the General Affairs Council meeting took stock of preparations for the upcoming G20 summit which will be held in Los Cabos, Mexico, on 18-19 June 2012 and which will focus on economic and employment growth, strengthening the international financial system, enhancing food security, promoting sustainable development and the fight against climate change.
During the General Affairs Council meeting Malta’s delegation was led by Joseph Cole, Director General for Economic and European Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.