Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs; Nikos Christodoulidis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus; Credit: MAEE

On 23 November 2021, Luxembourg's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, participated in the meeting of the European Affairs ministers of the European Union (EU) in Brussels.

The ministers discussed preparations for the European Council meeting on 16-17 December 2021. Regarding issues related to COVID-19 and the possibility of further restrictive measures in the context of the rising incidence rate across Europe, Minister Asselborn underlined the importance of the proportionality of these measures, in particular as regards a possible revision of the Council recommendation on internal borders. Minister Asselborn also stressed the importance for EU member states to find consensus on the validity period of vaccination certificates and booster vaccinations. Coherent conditions must be guaranteed for all European citizens, as divergent approaches could have a negative impact on the free movement and daily life of cross-border communities, urged the minister.

On energy prices, Minister Asselborn stressed the importance of coordinated national measures in response to soaring energy prices: "It is necessary to protect vulnerable consumers through temporary and targeted measures, while accelerating efforts on energy efficiency and renewable energies in order to get out of our dependence on fossil fuels".

Regarding the situation on the border with Belarus, Minister Asselborn recalled the need for a genuine holistic European policy which encompasses all the pillars of migration policy and is based on a predictable system of solidarity. Issues related to crisis management and resilience, security and defence as well as the EU's external relations were also raised.

The adoption of conclusions on strengthening preparedness, response capacity and resilience in the face of future crises as well as a presentation by the European Commission on its work programme for the year 2022 were also on the agenda of the meeting.

The ministers then discussed the state of relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. They supported the full implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. The package of measures proposed by the Commission contains concrete elements to take into account the realities on the ground and to support local communities.

The meeting of the General Affairs Council was also an opportunity for European Affairs ministers to discuss EU enlargement and the stabilisation and association process.

Finally, the ministers had a country-specific discussion as part of the Council dialogue on the rule of law, an exercise that is part of the commitment to make the dialogue more focused and more structured. After those of November 2020 and April 2021, this third round of discussions (each time covering five countries) made it possible to have an exchange of views on the situation in Croatia, Cyprus, Italy, Latvia and Lithuania.