HC Deb 19 December 1984 vol 70 cc193-4W
Mrs. Rumbold

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of the 17–18 December Foreign Affairs Council.

Mr. Rifkind

With my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade I represented the United Kingdom at the Foreign Affairs Council which met in Brussels on 17–18 December. Ministerial conferences with Portugal and Spain and a meeting of the EC/Cyprus Association Council were held in the margins.

The Council agreed to sign pre-accession and automobile protocols with Portugal. Ministers approved declarations on fisheries and wine for presentation to Spain and Portugal.

At the ministerial conference with Portugal, the Community and Portugal reviewed progress.

At the ministerial conference with Spain, considerable progress was made in settling the outstanding industrial questions. Agreement was finally reached between Spain and the Community on arrangements for the dismantlement of Spain's protectionist tariff regime. Spanish tariffs will be cut by 52 per cent. by the end of the first three years of a seven years' overall transitional period. In addition, there will be a reduced duty quota for cars, set at 32,000 units in the first year rising to 40,000 in the third year, at a tariff of 17.4 per cent. The new quota for cars will in its first year be more than twice the size of the existing quotas — which is at higher rates of duty — and offers considerable further improvements in the later years. The settlement will offer substantially improved opportunities to United Kingdom exporters.

The Community and Spain also reached agreement on arrangements aimed at ensuring that Spain's plans for restructuring its steel industry enable it to become viable without state support no more than three years after accession. For as long as aid to the Spanish industry continues, Spanish sendings of steel to the Community will continue to be restrained. Disruption to the Community's steel market will thus be prevented. Agreement was also reached with Spain, ad referendum on the Spanish side, on the institutions chapter.

Ministers discussed arrangements for implementing the Fontainebleu conclusions in respect of new own resources. Work will continue on the text of the new own resources decision.

There was a further discussion on Community action in response to the famine in Africa. Commission proposals for financing the commitment made at the European Council in Dublin to supply 1.2 million tonnes of cereals to drought affected African countries between now and the next harvest were approved.

As not all member states will ratify the treaty amending Greenland's status by 1 January 1985, the Council considered the need for interim arrangements. The Council reaffirmed its commitment to give effect to Greenland's withdrawal from the Community from 1 January. Fisheries aspects are being considered further at the Fisheries Council on 19 December.

Ministers briefly discussed the proposal for integrated Mediterranean programmes — IMPs. A number of member states, including the United Kingdom, reiterated their view that the existing proposals were inappropriate and contrary to the conclusions of the March European Council. The Commission agreed to reflect on the need for an amended proposal.

The Commission reported to that Council that agreement had been reached with Canada for a revised EC/GATT-bound newsprint quota of 650,000 tonnes.

The Commission also reported on the ministerial discussions between the Community and the United States of America, which were held on the 13–14 December.

At the EC/Cyprus Association Council meeting, the Community confirmed its commitment to eventual customs union with Cyprus and told the Government of Cyprus that it intends to define negotiating directives in 1985.