Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development
Federal Minister of Economics and Technology
|Franz Josef Jung
Federal Minister of Defence
The General Affairs and External Relations Council is attended by the Foreign Ministers of the 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. Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier took on the role on 1 January 2007.
As well as attending formal Councils, the Foreign Ministers come together every six months 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 German Presidency will take place in Bremen on 30 and 31 March 2007.
Since June 2002, the topics "general affairs" and "external relations" have usually been addressed separately in consecutive sessions.
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 prepares the European Council, the meeting of Heads of State and Government.
The External Relations Council covers the whole spectrum of the EU’s external action, including the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and 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 the Foreign Ministers.