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General Affairs and External Relations

The General Affairs and External Relations Council is attended by the Foreign Ministers of European Union Member States. They generally meet once a month in Brussels, although the meetings in April, June and October take place in Luxembourg. As in all Council configurations, the chair of the Council of Foreign Ministers rotates every six months. Foreign Minister Dr Dimitrij Rupel will take on the role on 1 January 2008.

As well as attending formal Councils, the Foreign Ministers come together once during each Presidency for an informal meeting. The "Gymnich Meeting" is named after a castle near the German town of Cologne where guests of the German Government used to stay. The Gymnich Meeting during the Slovenian Presidency will take place at the end of March 2008.

Since June 2002, "general affairs" and "external relations" have usually been addressed separately in consecutive sessions.


General affairs

The General Affairs Council deals with dossiers concerning more than one of the European Union's policy areas. These are also referred to as "horizontal affairs", and include negotiations on EU enlargement, the multi-annual budgetary perspective, and institutional and administrative matters. The General Affairs Council is further responsible for ensuring the overall consistency of the work carried out in the other Council configurations. It also organises the European Council, i.e. the meeting of Heads of State and Government.


External relations

The External Relations Council covers the whole spectrum of the EU's external activities, including the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), development cooperation, and trade relations with countries outside the EU.

The Foreign Ministers coordinate external relations dossiers with the High Representative for the CFSP, Javier Solana. The Commissioners responsible for these fields are Benita Ferrero-Waldner (External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy), Peter Mandelson (Trade), Louis Michel (Development and Humanitarian Aid) and Olli Rehn (Enlargement).

Depending on the items on the agenda, the Ministers of Defence or those responsible for development or trade may also participate in the meetings of Foreign Ministers.


More information on the work of the General Affairs and External Relations Council:


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Date: 03.01.2008