HC Deb 20 December 1991 vol 201 cc339-40W
Mr. Dykes

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 December.

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I represented the United Kingdom at the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 December.

The Council agreed in principle that a further 200 million ecu (£140 million) of food aid should be sent urgently to the Soviet Union and that a first tranche of 500 million ecu (£350 million) of the 1.25 billion ecu (£875 million) food and medical aid standby credit should be disbursed as soon as possible. The Foreign Affairs Council also decided to establish a task force, based in Moscow or St. Petersburg, to help with food distribution.

The Council discussed the timetable for further technical work on the draft treaty on European union in order to ensure consistency between the provisions on political union and economic and monetary union and to prepare the text for signature. It considered reports on immigration and asylum presented by the Commission and invited Immigration Ministers to continue their work in this area on the lines agreed by the Maastricht European Council.

The Council asked the Commission to draw up proposals for the denunciation of the Lome convention with respect to Haiti and to report to the Committee of Permanent Representatives on what steps might be taken to provide new humanitarian aid to Albania and to the Baltic states. It also agreed that the Commission should start exploratory talks with Romania on a possible association agreement. The Council adopted measures extending to countries of central America the generalised system of preferences concessions which it granted to the Andean pact countries last year.

The Council considered the way forward on the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement in the light of the European Court of Justices's opinion that the proposed judicial mechanism to be established under the EEA was incompatible with the treaty of Rome. The Council asked the Commission to identify possible solutions with a view to signature early next year.

Ministers discussed human rights in China, and agreed that the Political Committee should carry out a study. In the meantime, no new Community aid projects for China would be agreed.

In the margins of the Council, Ministers and the Commission signed EC association agreements with Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and a co-operation agreement with San Marino.

Ministers issued a declaration on guidelines on the recognition of new states in eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union. They discussed the situation in Yugoslavia in the light of these guidelines. They agreed to recognise on 15 January 1992 the independence of those Yugoslav republics satisfying certain conditions. The Arbitration Commission of the EC conference on Yugoslavia will advise on whether conditions have been met.

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