HC Deb 07 March 1990 vol 168 cc691-2W
39. Mr. Tom Clarke

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what issues he expects to discuss at the next General Affairs Council of Ministers meeting.

Mr. Maude

We expect a range of EC issues to be discussed.

Mr. Boswell

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on forthcoming business in the European Community Council of Ministers.

Mr. Hurd

The Foreign Affairs Council met on 5 March. The Uruguay round of multilateral trade negotiations is due to end in December 1990. The European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of member states, will report to the Council on the current status of the negotiations. Ministers are expected to discuss proposals from the Commission on European Community policy on Japanese car imports after 1992. Ministers will adopt the draft negotiating mandate for an EC-Czechoslovakia trade and co-operation agreement and the Commission may seek member states' views on the timing of the conclusion of an EC-GDR trade and co-operation agreement. Ministers are also expected to discuss preparations for the forthcoming intergovernmental conference and to consider proposals for the site of the European Environment Agency. The Commission will report on how it intends to respond to the Council's declaration at Strasbourg that there should be a substantial increase in EC aid to the occupied territories. The Council will endorse the Community's position for the EC-GCC joint council to be held in Muscat on 17 March.

The Agricultural Council met on 5, 6 and possibly 7 March to discuss the annual price fixing and possibly non-food uses of agricultural products, bovine semen, the amendment of regulation 857/84 (milk) and the position on the adoption of agricultural structures regulations. It will also meet on 26 and 27 March to discuss the annual price fixing and possibly non-food uses of agricultural products, medicated feedingstuffs and pesticide residues.

The Economic and Finance Council will meet on 12 March to discuss the Commission's progress in the fight against fraud as set out in its first annual report, the Court of Auditors' report on the 1988 budget to inform an opinion from the Council to the European Parliament on granting the Commission a discharge in respect of the implementation of the 1988 budget, a revision of the financial perspective with an aim for agreement on Commission proposals for a substantive revision of the financial perspective for 1991 and 1992, the proposed revised Council decisions on economic convergence and co-operation between central banks, economic surveillance procedures during stage I of economic and monetary union, and a proposal to increase the borrowing limit for loans made by EURATOM. Ministers are also expected to discuss the need for early production of the Commission's revised VAT technical proposals and the need for rapid decisions thereafter.

At the Industry Council on 13 March, the Commission is expected to introduce a proposal for a Council directive on the creation of a restoration certificate. The certificate would in effect extend the term of patent protection of a pharmaceutical product from the present 20 years in most EC states, to a maximum of 30 years. The Commission will argue that such a measure is necessary to compensate for the increasing time taken for new drugs to obtain the safety approval without which they cannot be placed on the market. The Council will consider Commission reports on the future of the EC textiles and clothing industry, the trade barriers operated by other countries against EC textiles and clothing exports, and the possibility of establishing a central body ("observatory") to provide statistics in this sector. The Council will also consider a Commission report on the Community footwear industry. The report outlines measures the Commission believes the industry needs to adopt to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the completion of the single market. It lays much stress on increased EC collaboration in R and D, the development of profession training, and improvements in production process by means of technical innovation and modernisation. A discussion will take place on the need for a regulatory framework for biotechnology in the Community.

At the Environment Council on 22 March Ministers may discuss further the proposed Environment Agency. It is hoped that the proposal to establish a committee to facilitate amendment of directives on drinking water, bathing water and surface water will be adopted. The Council is hoping for agreement on a resolution on the proposal for a Community strategy on waste management, and there is likely to be detailed discussion and the possible adoption of the proposal to guarantee the public freedom of access to data on the environment. A detailed discussion is expected leading to the possible adoption of the proposal to protect waters from pollution by nitrates. An early exchange of views is expected on the proposal to consolidate European anti-pollution standards for all categories of vehicles; EC member states are required to introduce tighter gaseous emission standards for cars over 1400 cc by 31 December 1992. There is likely to be a discussion on a Community position on the adoption of severe measures to protect the ozone layer in the light of the forthcoming renegotiation of the Montreal protocol.

The Transport Council will meet on 29 March. Further discussion will take place on the detail of proposals for a second stage of air transport liberalisation, for increasing the Community road haulage quotas by 40 per cent. for 1990, 1991 and 1992 and for fixing maximum authorised dimensions for road trains. There will also be some discussion of the Commission's railway policy proposals, centering on combined transport and possibly leading to discussion of transport infrastructure and the problems of transit through third countries. There may be some discussion of EUROS and of the liberalisation of shipping, of passenger transport by coach and bus and an exchange of views on fiscal harmonisation in the road haulage sector.

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