HL Deb 19 October 1993 vol 549 cc41-2WA
Lord Reay

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will report on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council held on 4th–5th October 1993.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 4th October. My honourable friend Mr. Heathcoat-Amory, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, also attended.

The Council discussed the Presidency's proposal for a new Inter-Institutional Agreement (IIA) on Budget Discipline. After addressing the concerns of several delegations, they reached a favourable opinion on the text and joint declarations, and agreed further Council statements. The IIA will be submitted to ECOFIN for confirmation of the Council's agreement.

The Council reached general agreement on detailed arrangements to allow citizens of the union living in a member state of which they are not a national to vote and stand in European elections under the same conditions as nationals of that member state. These arrangements will be finally approved once the Maastricht Treaty enters into force.

Sir Leon Brittan reported on his discussions in Washington on 27th September and on progress in the Uruguay Round negotiations in Geneva. The Council discussed in detail a number of the non-aGR 1cultural dossiers in the negotiations, including textiles, subsidies, steel, civil aircraft, services (including audio-visual services), and the proposed Multilateral Trade Organisation. The Council agreed that the Commission's negotiating position took account of member states' concerns, and invited the Commission to continue with the negotiations. The Council also discussed the Community's trade policy instruments—the Commission is to make proposals for speeding up and making more transparent anti-dumping and countervailing procedures.

Lord Owen and Mr. Stoltenberg briefed Ministers on latest developments in former Yugoslavia, following the Bosnian Parliament's rejection of the peace plan. Ministers agreed that the EC should urge all the parties to return to the negotiating table, while preserving those elements of the peace plan already agreed. Ministers also discussed Community assistance to the Middle East peace process, on the basis of Commission proposals for a package of medium-term assistance to the region and for an updated agreement with Israel. Ministers agreed that both proposals should be remitted for expert-level study.

The Council discussed the Commission's Opinions on the application of Malta and Cyprus to join the Community. The Counci1 broadly endorsed the Opinions' conclusions, and in particular the Commission's plans to begin talks with Cyprus and Malta to help them prepare for accession negotiations.

The Council again considered the draft regulation on dual-use goods (those goods which could have either a civilian or a military purpose). Ministers reiterated their wish to see progress made which accommodated member states' concerns, and asked officials to undertake further work.

Ministers signed new Association Agreements with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. These replace the Association Agreement signed with the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic in December 1991.

The situation in Russia was also discussed, and the Council issued a statement of support for President Yeltsin.

The Commission presented a paper on the Community's future relations with Switzerland. It was agreed that this would be discussed at the next Foreign Affairs Council in November.

Meetings were held with Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The meetings registered agreements on a range of issues and took stock of progress so far. There will be further ministerial meetings with all four applicants next month.

Ministers also confirmed their decision made informally in New York earlier in the week in response to Nelson Mandela's call for the easing of sanctions, to lift some sanctions against South Africa. The Community will keep remaining sanctions under review.

The Commission formally presented to Ministers the first draft mandate for negotiations with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries on the Mid-Term Review of the Lomé Convention, which governs aid and trade with much of the developing world. The Community will consider its position over the next few months, before entering negotiations with the beneficiary countries in early 1994.

The Council also approved the Commission's negotiating mandate for an EC Trade and Co-operation Agreement with Vietnam.

The Council agreed arrangements for publishing Council votes to follow up the Edinburgh European Council's decisions on openness. Specifically, the Council decided, by 7 votes to 5 (UK, 13elgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands), on a procedure which requires that decisions to publish are proposed by a member state and that a simple majority is required to block publication.