HC Deb 16 January 1979 vol 960 cc736-8W
Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Community that met on 18th and 19th December 1978.

Mr. Judd

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Industry and I represented the United Kingdom at the Foreign Affairs Council on 18th and 19th December.

The Council agreed that the negotiations on Spanish entry into the Community should be formally opened in February with substantive negotiations to start, at the latest, after the Summer Recess.

The Council considered the state of the negotiations on Greece's entry into the Community and agreed on a revised offer of terms to be put to Greece.

On iron and steel questions the Council agreed that the Community's internal anti-crisis measures and the arrangements for regulating imports from third countries should be renewed for one year. The Council also adopted a resolution establishing certain general principles for granting aid to the steel industry, on the basis of which the Commission will put proposals to the Council for decision by 1st April.

Commissioner Haferkamp reported to the Council on progress in the multilateral trade negotiations. The Commission was invited to continue the negotiations with a view to achieving a balanced result as soon as possible.

The directive on mutual recognition of the qualifications of architects was considered further but no final decision was reached.

A Council directive was agreed on the co-ordination of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the taking up and pursuit of the business of direct life assurance in the Community.

Agreement was reached on proposals to adjust duty and tax exemptions for travellers and for small consignments with effect from 1st January 1979.

The Council considered the situation in respect of exports to the Community of Cyprus new potatoes arising from the Community's failure to agree an internal potato regime. The United Kingdom emphasised the importance of making arrangements for Cyprus potatoes to enter at a reduced tariff. It was agreed that agriculture Ministers should be invited to adopt a regulation on the potato regime as soon as possible.

There was a review of progress on the establishment of the European foundation. The question was remitted for further consideration.

In implementation of the European Council's decision on 4th-5th December the Council agreed that salaries of directly elected Members of the Assembly should be at national rates paid and determined by national Governments, and be subject to national taxation. Allowances for expenditure incurred in the execution of the Members' duties would be paid by the Assembly.

The Council approved a report on improved co-operation with the countries of the European Free Trade Area, and agreed indicative ceilings for certain EFTA imports in 1979 and the procedure for the re-introduction of Customs duties when these ceilings are reached.

The Council received a report on the progress of the negotiations with Mediterranean countries on textile imports for 1979 and beyond. Member States subsequently approved the firm arrangements negotiated by the Commission for Community textile imports in 1979 from Greece, Spain and Morocco, and agreed the levels within which imports from other Mediterranean suppliers should be controlled. The Council reviewed the means on enforcing the levels and received assurances from the Commission on this point.

The Council reviewed the Community's economic relations with Japan and agreed that Japan should be encouraged, as a matter of urgency, to take action to reduce Japanese trade and payments surpluses, and to provide better access for Community exports.

The Council reviewed arrangements for the ministerial conference on renegotiation of the Lome convention in December and agreed that the question of human rights should be raised with the ACP on that occasion. Under the present Lome convention special arrangements for the import of beef and veal from Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar and Swaziland were extended until 1st March 1980.

In a positive discussion on a new agreement with Yugoslavia, the Council took note of progress and expressed its intention to adopt directives for the negotiations as soon as possible.

Commissioner Haferkamp reported to the Council on his talks with the secretary of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance—CMEA—about a possible agreement between the EEC and the CMEA.

The Council considered a draft negotiating mandate for a safeguards agreement between Euratom and Australia. The subject was sent back to officials for further work and will be considered again by the Council in January.

The terms of office of the president and vice-presidents of the EEC Commission were formally renewed for a further period of two years.

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