L-R: Karoline Edstatler, Austria's Minister of European Affairs; Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs; Credit: MAEE

Luxembourg hosted the General Affairs Council (GAC) of the European Union on Tuesday 13 October 2020.

At the GAC, Luxembourg's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, and his European counterparts examined the Council recommendation on the coordination of measures taken by Member States which restrict free movement in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister Jean Asselborn recalled the importance of close coordination in this area, while stressing that it is essential that free movement is respected. He stated: "As for the criteria to be retained in the context of the fight against the pandemic, we must go beyond the incidence rate alone and include the rate of tests carried out, national testing strategies, the positivity rate, the hospitalisation rate, the rate of patients in intensive care and the death rate".

Afterwards, ministers had an exchange of views on the state of play of negotiations on future relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, briefed ministers on the latest developments and provided them with an overview. Luxembourg's Foreign Minister noted: "While we welcome in principle the beginnings of positive developments that have surfaced during the negotiations, it will take significant steps forward on substance and real openness on the part of the United Kingdom to be able to reach an agreement".

The ministers responsible for European affairs also had an in-depth discussion on the cross-cutting aspects of the European Commission's annual report on the rule of law. In this regard, the three Benelux countries called for a strengthening of the principles of the rule of law in the EU.

Preparations for Thursday and Friday's European Council were also on the Council's agenda. Ministers exchanged on the coordination of measures taken in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, on the climate and on EU-Africa relations.

Finally, the German Presidency of the Council of the EU took stock of the Conference on the Future of Europe and briefed ministers on the state of play of discussions with the European Parliament on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for the period 2021-27.

On the sidelines of the GAC, Minister Jean Asselborn held bilateral meetings with several of his European counterparts, including Sophie Wilmès, Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Clément Beaune, French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Karoline Edstatler, Austria's Minister of European Affairs, and Thomas Byrne, Ireland's Minister of European Affairs.