I will attend a meeting of the European Council this Thursday and Friday, 17 and 18 October. Following my meeting with Prime Minister Johnson last week, I am convinced that all parties want an agreement and that such is in the interest of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the European Union as a whole. We have a pathway to a possible deal, but there are issues still to be fully resolved. First is the issue of consent and democracy, ensuring that any long-term arrangement that applies to Northern Ireland has the democratic assent of the people of Northern Ireland, and second is the issue of customs, ensuring that there is no customs border between North and South and no tariffs on trade.
This is about securing an agreement that works for the people of Ireland and the people of Britain and Europe. If it is to work for the people of Ireland, it means avoiding a hard border between North and South. That has always been the Government's primary objective, ensuring that the all-island economy can continue to develop, that North-South co-operation as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement can resume and, just as important, that the Single Market, its integrity and our place in it are protected. Those are our objectives. This has always been about achieving those objectives, and I am confident they can be achieved.
Since my meeting with Prime Minister Johnson last week, work has been ongoing between the Commission task force and British officials. Michel Barnier provided an update to the EU 27 Ministers at the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg yesterday. I do not think it would be helpful today to say too much about the precise state of play of the discussions or the exact timeframe in which an agreement may be possible. I stated last week that I thought there was a pathway to a possible agreement, and that is still my view. However, the question is whether the negotiators will be able to bridge the remaining gaps in advance of tomorrow's Council meeting. What is important now is that all focus is kept on achieving a deal that delivers for everyone.
While I continue to work towards a positive outcome on Brexit, the European Council will have several other issues of considerable importance to discuss. The President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will set out her priorities for her term in office. The incoming Commission, based on nominations received from member states, strikes a welcome balance in terms of gender, geography and size. As we know, Ireland's nominee, Phil Hogan, was offered the position of trade Commissioner, one of the most significant and influential portfolios in the years ahead, and I know he will make a major contribution to the new Commission. The European Parliament has held hearings with the proposed new Commissioners. In some cases, these have resulted in the need for revised or new nominations. This procedure will continue until the Commission as a whole has received the approval of the Parliament and can take up office. Until then, the current Commission, under Jean-Claude Juncker, will stay in place. It is anticipated that it will remain in place until early December at a minimum. At our July meeting we agreed that Christine Lagarde should be the next President of the European Central Bank, and this week we will adopt a decision appointing her to that role.
Our discussions on Thursday will begin with an exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli. This is the European Council's first opportunity to meet him collectively and we will discuss his priorities and how we will advance the European Union's shared work. We will then have formal working sessions and a working dinner during which we will discuss various issues, including the implementation of the strategic agenda for the next five years; the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, which is the European Union's budget for the period from 2021 to 2027; climate action, following the recent UN summit; enlargement, including the possible opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia; Turkish drilling activity in Cypriot waters; and foreign policy matters, including recent developments in Syria and Turkey. We will also, of course, meet in Article 50 format to discuss developments in the Brexit negotiations.
In June the European Council welcomed work carried out on the MFF under the Romanian Presidency and called on the Finnish President to advance this work in order that we can discuss it this week with the aim of having an agreement before the end of the year. The European Union needs a budget that enables successful policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy, to continue and equips us well to deal with new shared challenges such as migration, climate change, and the technological transformation under way. However, with a global economic slowdown likely and considerable uncertainty continuing to surround Brexit, it is also important that it should be realistic and fit for purpose. I do not expect that we will take any decisions this week, but it will be an opportunity to begin to identify a landing zone in which agreement on the MFF might be found. For my part, I will again strongly make the case for CAP and for the reversal of the cuts proposed in the Commission's initial draft. I will also defend the budget for other long standing and well-functioning programmes such as Horizon 2020, INTERREG and Erasmus+.
In June, the European Council adopted a strategic agenda for the next five years. In our discussions this week, we will consider its implementation. Our priorities are protecting citizens and freedoms; developing a strong and vibrant economic base; building a climate-neutral, green, fair and inclusive future; and promoting European interests and values on the global stage. This week, the Prime Minister of Finland, Antti Rinne, will provide an update on how this agenda has developed. Our discussions on climate change will follow the UN climate action summit, which I attended in New York in September. At the UN summit we saw that support for concerted and determined climate action is strengthening, driven not least by the voices of young people, who made their presence felt in New York. We need to build on that momentum. Ireland wants a climate-neutral EU by 2050. This is good environmental, social and economic policy, and it should encourage other countries to scale up their short and long-term ambitions under the Paris Agreement. I expect to see ambitious climate plans from the incoming Commission.
At our June meeting we discussed Turkey's illegal drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean. We called on Turkey to cease such activities and to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus. We will return to the matter this week. Ireland believes that the recent Turkish statements and actions on Varosha run contrary to the aim of finding a comprehensive and viable settlement in Cyprus. Ireland stands in full solidarity with Cyprus. Together with our EU partners, we will continue to monitor developments closely and respond appropriately. I am pleased the President is currently in Cyprus to help strengthen our relationships with that country.
The Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, will comment on enlargement and some of the other international issues expected to arise this week.
For my part, I look forward to engaging with my EU colleagues collectively and bilaterally. Until the last minute we will continue to search for a positive outcome to Brexit for Ireland, Europe and the UK. I will, of course, report back to the House next week, if not before.