HC Deb 26 July 1979 vol 971 cc416-8W
Sir Anthony Meyer

asked the Lord Privy Seal, if he will make a statement on the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Communities held on 24 July.

Sir Ian Gilmour

At this first Foreign Affairs Council under the Irish presidency, the United Kingdom was represented by my right hon. and noble Friend. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade and I also took part in the discussions.

The Council took stock of the work of the specialised councils. The United Kingdom stressed the urgency of the work on the Community budget deriving from the decisions of the European Council on 21 and 22 June. The Commission confirmed that its reference paper would be available in time for discussion at the Finance Council in September. I referred also to the need for a satisfactory timetable for the next stage of the Spanish accession negotiations. Papers will be prepared for four meetings at Ministerial or deputy level before the end of the year.

Agreement was reached on the financial provisions governing an energy research and development programme over the next four years. The programme, which has a financial ceiling of approximately £68 million, covers energy conservation, solar and geothermal energy, production and utilisation of hydrogen and energy systems analysis.

The Council agreed, subject to a United Kingdom waiting reserve, a framework regulation reaffirming the Community's political commitment to set up in due course a register of oil purchases. A further detailed Council regulation will be necessary before this can be implemented.

There was a discussion of the follow-up to the recent Geneva conference on South-East Asian refugees. The Council confirmed the commitment made by the Community at that conference to continue to provide half the food aid needs, in respect of South-East Asian refugees, of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and to give the Commissioner substantially increased financial support.

On the GATT Multilateral Trade Negotiations, the Council took note of the Commission's intention to continue its efforts in Geneva to find a solution to the remaining issue of safeguards. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade took the opportunity to express the Government's concern about the effect of United States differential oil and feedstock prices on the prices of United States synthetic textile exports and asked the Commission to press ahead urgently with its investigation into this matter.

The draft mandate for negotiations with Portugal on a revision of the EEC-Portugal trade agreement was considered. No decision was reached on the arrangements to be proposed for Portuguese imports of vehicles for assembly in Portugal. The matter will be considered again in September. The Council considered the progress made by the EEC and ACP secretariats in tidying up the texts negotiated at the ministerial conference in June and reiterated its view that the negotiations must be regarded as closed. The Commission reported on the successful first meeting of the EEC-China joint commission in Peking on 17 and 18 July. The Council welcomed the proposal of the Irish Foreign Minister, as president of the Council, to visit Turkey with Commissioner Haferkamp to discuss future negotiations on the relaunching of the association agreement. Bulgaria's application for admission to the generalised system of preferences was discussed by the Council, and agreement reached on the terms of the Community's reply. The Commission reported on the first round of negotiations on 2 and 3 July for a new EEC-Yugoslavia agreement. The Commission drew attention to the desirability of reaching an early conclusion of the negotiations and undertook to make further proposals in September on points of disagreement between the two sides.

The Council agreed to discuss further in the autumn a French paper on the adaptation of chapter VI of the Euratom treaty.

There was a first discussion of the Council's need for new accommodation following enlargement. The Council welcomed the Belgian Government's proposal to construct a new building on their own responsibility, and without Council commitment at this stage to rent the completed building. Delegations stressed the need for close consultation with the Belgian authorities and for economy.

There was discussion of a draft Council regulation to award a pay increase to Community staff related to increases in the cost of living during the second half of 1978. The United Kingdom urged that no general increase should be awarded to staff who are benefiting from the distortions which were inadvertently introduced in the pay scales at the beginning of 1977. No agreement was reached on the draft regulation and discussions are continuing.

The conference of representatives of the Governments of the member States, meeting in the margins of the Council, unanimously approved the appointment of three judges and two advocates-general to the European Court of Justice.

A multi-annual data processing programme costing some £16 million over four years was agreed. The programme will cover software, applications and standardisation, and various studies.