HC Deb 22 April 1994 vol 241 cc703-5W
Ms Quin

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on 18 and 19 April.

Mr. Hurd

[holding answer 21 April 1994]: I attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 18-19 April. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office also attended.

In their statement on former Yugoslavia, Ministers condemned the continuing Bosnian Serb attacks on Gorazde and called for an immediate ceasefire and the release of all detained United Nations personnel. They also called for an intensified diplomatic effort by the international community. This should involved the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia. It would aim to ensure the convergence of their initiatives and to bring about talks between the parties at an early date based on the European Union plan and taking into account the Washington accord and the talks on the Krajinas. An association council with Cyprus was held in the margins.

The Council agreed a common position on the cohesion fund regulation which will govern the operations of the cohesion fund. The text will now be transmitted to the European Parliament for assent.

The President of the European Commission, Mr. Delors, gave a brief presentation to the Council on follow-up activity to the Commission's White Paper on growth, competitiveness and employment. He said that the Commission would focus on improving the functioning of the single market, paying particular attention to the fiscal and regulatory environment for small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Commission presented ideas for enhancing the European Union relationship with Ukraine. Discussion will continue at a future FAC.

The Council adopted a package of interim measures for discussion with the future South African Government, intended to send a strong political signal in support of the transition to democracy. The measures include trade and economic co-operation, a special development co-operation programme and political dialogue. A long-term relationship will be discussed subsequently, should the new Government wish.

The Council agreed a joint action on the middle east to assist the European Union's policy of political and economic support for the middle east peace process. The text of the joint action is being deposited in the House Library.

Ministers agreed that preparations to launch the European Union's initiative for a pact on stability in Europe at a conference in Paris on 26-27 May were proceeding well. Ministers will review progress again at the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 May. The Council agreed provisional guidelines for financing actions under the common foreign and security policy.

The Commission introduced its proposal for a directive establishing the arrangements to allow citizens of the Union residing in a member state of which they are not nationals to vote and stand as a candidate in municipal elections. The proposal was broadly welcomed by the Council. There will be discussions in the Home Affairs Council on 21 April.

The Council welcomed applications for European Union membership from Poland and Hungary and invited the Commission to prepare its opinions on the applications.

The Council was unable to confirm an agreement reached in the Committee of Permanent Representatives on the application by The Guardian newspaper for access to a number of Council documents under the code of conduct on the right of access to information.

The Council underlined the importance of rapid completion of negotiations towards a partnership and co-operation agreement with Russia and invited the Commission to explore Russian proposals relating to trade in nuclear material.

The Council reached agreement on allocating the remaining European Union fish quotas gained under the European economic area—EEA—agreement. It agreed the internal allocation of North Norway cod among Spain, Portugal and Ireland; and Icelandic redfish among the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and France.

The Council heard a report on the state of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development negotiations on state aids for shipbuilding. The Council hoped that the negotiations, which were approaching a conclusion, could be finalised soon. The Council emphasised the importance of an agreement permitting competition rules to function better.

The Council remitted the Commission request to send its draft decision for concluding the Uruguay round to the European Parliament to COREPER for examination.

Germany made a statement reserving its right to pursue its case against the EC banana regime in the European Court of Justice and to object to the proposed changes agreed with the Latin Americans. Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands associated themselves with the statement.

No formal vote was taken.