HC Deb 27 October 1980 vol 991 cc100-2W
Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Councils held on 16 September and 7 October.

Sir Ian Gilmour:

My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I represented Her Majesty's Government at the Council, held on 16 September.

Before this Council began there was a conciliation meeting with the representatives of the European Parliament, in order to try to work out a formula to enable the Council to adopt a regulation covering the Community's programme of aid to non-associates.

A mandate for the Commission to negotiate with Zimbabwe on her accession to the Lomé Convention was agreed at the Council. The mandate was not satisfactory in all respects but it provided a reasonable basis for negotiation. (The Community subsequently agreed to improve its offer on sugar and thus enabled the Commission to reach agreement with the government of Zimbabwe on the terms of Zimbabwe's accession to the Convention.)

The draft regulation on special Community spending in the United Kingdom was discussed. Progress was made on defining the scope of the regulation and the criteria for measuring the eligibility of programmes.

In a short discussion on the North/South dialogue the Council pressed for closer Community co-ordination in preparation for the global negotiations in New York.

The Council discussed arrangements for the participation of the Community and its member States in the International natural rubber agreement.

Ministers discussed the current review of the export credit consensus, with particular reference to alternative new interest rate mechanisms.

Meeting in the Political Co-operation framework on the same day, Ministers heard Mr Thorn's account of the visits he had made to the Middle East. Ministers instructed officials to pursue studies of the principles embodied in the Venice Declaration on the Middle East in the light of Mr. Thorn's contacts.

Ministers discussed the situation in Turkey and noted with concern developments in that country leading up to the military coup. They noted the assurances given by the military authorities concerning the re-establishment of democratic institutions and decided that in this spirit the Community should continue its co-operation with Turkey.

The Nine Ministers also expressed their concern at the situation in Lebanon and urged all parties to avoid any statement or action which could reduce the chances of peace there or undermine the role of United Nations forces in the Lebanon.

At the Council held on 7 October, my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Industry and I represented Her Majesty's Government.

Before the Council there was a formal meeting of the EC/Israel Co-operation Council. The Israeli delegation stressed the effects which enlargement of the Community would have on Israel. The Community undertook to consider carefully the effects of enlargement on third countries as a whole including Israel.

The Council discussed further the regulation implementing the United Kingdom budget agreement of 30 May. All major outstanding points were agreed. I am making a separate statement on this in reply to a second written question from my hon. Friend.

The Council continued its discussion of pre-accession aid to Portugal, on which no agreement had been reached at the meeting on 16 September, and agreed on a package of 275 meua, consisting of 150 meua in European Investment Bank lending and 125 meua in grant aid. The package is designed to cover the period up to Portuguese accession. It does not set a precedent for any other State.

A resolution welcoming the accession of Vanuatu to the Lomé Convention was approved by the Council.

There was a brief discussion on the Community mandate for the third international cocoa agreement. This indicated that an agreement on a mandate could be reached, and the matter was referred to COREPER for formal action.

Commission proposals for mandatory quotas on steel production under article 58 of the ECSC Treaty were discussed. There was general agreement on the need for early action. The decision on the principle of quotas is to be taken by the written procedure. Ministers also agreed that preparations for negotiations on 1981 imports from third countries should begin without further reference to the Council.

The Council agreed five regulations which would provide for expenditure under the non-quota section of the regional fund. These include measures of benefit to the United Kingdom on aid to steel and shipbuilding areas, and on cross-border measures in Ireland.

The Presidency presented a report on work in the specialist councils. My right hon. and noble Friend made a statement on relations with New Zealand. While welcoming the progress embodied in the decisions taken by the 30 September Agriculture Council on sheepmeat and on butter access for the remainder of 1980, he stressed the urgent need for an early and satisfactory decision on post-1980 arrangements for butter.