§ Mr. Ian Taylor
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 8 March.
§ Mr. Hurd
I attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 8 March. My hon. Friend the Minister for Trade represented the United Kingdom on trade issues.
The Council reached a common position on the Commission's proposal of a one-year cohesion fund instrument. The European Parliament will now be consulted and it is expected that the regulation will enter into force in time to meet the 1 April deadline set at the Edinburgh Council.128W
Foreign Ministers signed an EC association agreement with Bulgaria. Similar agreements were signed with Poland and Hungary in December 1991, and with Romania in February 1993.
The Council agreed an additional protocol to the European economic area agreement following Switzerland's rejection of the EEA. This now opens the way to the ratification of the agreement which will create the world's largest single market, covering the Community and six European Free Trade Association countries.
Foreign Ministers discussed the Community's relations with Russia. They reaffirmed the Community's continued support for economic and political reform in Russia.
The Council continued its discussion of a Commission proposal to change the decision-making procedures for Community anti-dumping and other commercial defence measures. The Commission reported to the Council on developments concerning the general agreement on tarrifs and trade Uruguay round and EC/USA trade issues.
The Netherlands and the Commission, together with France and Italy, agreed to hold further discussions on possible trade measures in respect of rice from the Netherlands Antilles.
In a discussion of latest developments in the former Yugoslavia, Lord Owen outlined his strategy for securing the agreement of all parties to the Vance-Owen proposals. Ministers gave unanimous support to this approach and agreed that existing sanctions should be tightened.