§ Mr. Burns
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 held on 1 and 2 February.
§ Mr. Hurd
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and I represented the United Kingdom at the Foreign Affairs Council from 1 to 2 February.
The council began with a debate on the Danish presidency's work programme. For the first time a substantive item of Council business was taken in open session, with television cameras present. It thus put in practice an important part of the conclusions of the Edinburgh European Council on openness. In the debate I stressed the importance of making progress on enlargement and on strengthening the Community's 544W relations with central and eastern Europe. I also reiterated the need for a peaceful solution in former Yugoslavia and for a rapid conclusion to the Uruguay round.
In the margins of the Council, EC and Austrian, Swedish and Finnish Foreign Ministers launched new accession negotiations. These, too, were held in open session. Much of the preparatory work was carried out during the United Kingdom presidency.
The rest of the Council was held in closed session. The Danish Foreign Minister briefed the Council on Denmark's plans to hold a conference in Copenhagen in April to discuss developments in central and eastern Europe, Albania and the Baltic states. The Council agreed a mandate for the Commission to negotiate amendments to the European Economic Area agreement following Switzerland's decision not to participate.
The presidency reported on its meeting with the Presidents of the European Parliament and of the Commission which marked the start of negotiations on inter-institutional agreements on subsidiarity and budget discipline. The Council discussed the appointment of Commission Vice-Presidents and remitted this for further examination by the Committee of Permanent Representatives. It continued its discussion of a Commission proposal to change the decision-making procedures for Community anti-dumping and other Commercial Defence measures. It also reviewed the Commission's mandate for the negotiation of a new international cocoa agreement. The Commission reported to the Council on the prospects of concluding the Uruguay round rapidly with the new US Administration and other GATT parties. The Council discussed the US decision to impose new duties on steel imports and invited the Commission to undertake consultations in Geneva on possible GATT action.
Ministers discussed latest developments in the former Yugoslavia and issued statements supporting the peace proposals put forward by Lord Owen and Mr. Vance and welcoming the report by Dame Anne Warburton on the treatment of Muslim women. Ministers deplored the recent outbreak of violence in Zaire and the death of the French ambassador in Kinshasa.
A Co-operation Council with Israel was held in the margins of the Council. Ministers reiterated their support for the peace process and their condemnation of Israel's deportation of more than 400 Palestinians. An EC association agreement with Romania was signed in the margins of the Council.