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“Virtual COSAC” to take stock of Germany’s EU Council Presidency

The year 2020 is drawing to a close and, with it, Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. It is time to take stock. At the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC) the Federal Chancellor herself, Dr Angela Merkel, will join the parliamentarians in doing so. The COSAC meeting is taking place on 30 November and 1 December 2020 and will be hosted by Gunther Krichbaum, Chairman of the Bundestag’s Committee on European Union Affairs, and Guido Wolf, Minister of Justice of Baden-Württemberg and Chairman of the Committee on European Union Questions at the Bundesrat.   

On Monday, 30 November 2020, at 2 p.m., the Chancellor will address the COSAC meeting and engage in a 90-minute discussion with the parliamentarians. This “virtual” COSAC – taking place, like previous conferences, as a video conference due to COVID-19 – will be opened at 9 a.m. by Bundestag President Dr Wolgang Schäuble. The livestream of the meeting can be followed from his point at: www.parleu2020.de.

As they write in the invitation to the Conference, the German Chairmen, Krichbaum and Wolf, had hoped to be able to meet the participants in person in Berlin in the late autumn. They regret, however, that the continued rise in Covid-19 infection rates has made this impossible and explain that they have decided, “with a heavy heart”, to hold the COSAC as a virtual meeting.

An impressive list of high-level keynote speakers: Merkel, von der Leyen, Spahn and former Federal President Köhler

Even though an in-person event in the Reichstag Building is not possible, the list of keynote speakers is impressive. Alongside Chancellor Merkel, European Commission President Dr Ursula von der Leyen, Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn and former Federal President Professor Horst Köhler will address the Conference and enter into dialogue with the COSAC participants.

“Aktuelle Stunde” debate on matters of topical interest

Once the Conference has been opened by the Bundestag President, the parliamentarians will from 9.30 a.m. hold an “Aktuelle Stunde” debate on a matter of topical interest to be determined at short notice. This exchange of views will be moderated by Gunther Krichbaum.

Lessons from the coronavirus crisis

From 11 a.m. on the first day of the Conference, there will be a discussion of lessons learned from the coronavirus crisis and cooperation in the EU in the event of pandemics and in health care.  The guest speakers will be Jens Spahn, Federal Minister of Health, and Dr Andrea Ammon, who has since 2017 headed the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The topics to be discussed include the widening of the ECDC’s competencies, as recently called for by the European Parliament. The European Commission has presented proposals for strengthening the ECDC. Deliberations are likely to centre on improvement of predictive capacity, the establishment of comparability between member states’ databases and the development of a digital early-warning system

Federal Chancellor Merkel to take stock of achievements during Germany’s Council Presidency

When Federal Chancellor Merkel takes stock of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dominated recent months, will play an important role. In this context, the political agreement achieved on the Next Generation EU recovery programme, and on the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), can be chalked up as successes. Additionally, the European Council agreed on a general approach to the reform package for the post-2020 common agricultural policy (CAP), with mandatory eco-schemes and enhanced conditionality. The Council also arrived at a partial general approach on the European Climate Law without being able to agree on the emission reduction target. The German Council Presidency supports the Commission’s proposal for a reduction of CO2 emissions of at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and is striving for a Council agreement on this target before the end of the year. Agreement was also achieved in the trilogue negotiations on the mechanism linking the disbursement of funds to the rule of law.

The future of the European Union

At the fourth session, entitled “The Future of the European Union“, beginning at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 1 December 2020, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will give a keynote speech. The subsequent discussion is likely to include debate on the Conference on the Future of Europe which she has announced. The national parliaments – including Chairman Krichbaum on behalf of the Bundestag – have repeatedly demanded an equal footing with the European Parliament, including in the Conference’s steering committee. The discussions will also focus on the Commission’s European Green Deal concept for economic recovery, together with measures planned to strengthen the European Union’s resilience, as well as the MFF and the Next Generation EU recovery instrument.

Europe’s role in the world – A responsible partnership with Africa

At the end of the COSAC meeting, from 11 a.m., a discussion will take place on the topic of “Europe’s role in the world – A responsible partnership with Africa”. The keynote speaker will be former Federal President Horst Köhler, a recognised expert on Africa. After leaving the office of Federal President, he assumed various functions, including that of Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara. Representatives from Africa and the African Union have also been invited to join in the ensuing debate. Alongside the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Togo, Robert Dussey, who is also the Chief Negotiator for the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) States, other African parliamentarians have agreed to participate.  Lilia Bellil Manai from Tunisia, Mohamed Ali Houmed from Djibouti and Emilia Monjowa Lifaka from Cameroon are expected to take part. (hau/26.11.2020)

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