HC Deb 07 March 1995 vol 256 cc132-6W
Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will make a statement on forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union.

Mr. David Davis

The following meetings are planned:

  • March 6–7: Foreign Affairs Council
  • March 9: Justice/Interior Council, Environment Council
  • March 10: Justice/Interior Council. Research Council
  • March 13–14: Transport Council
  • March 20: ECOFIN
  • March 27: Social Affairs Council
  • March 27–28: Agriculture Council
  • March 30: Consumer Council
  • March 31: Education Council, Youth Council

The following subjects are likely to be discussed:

6–7 March: Foreign Affairs Council

  • Provisional agenda:
  • Racism and Xenophobia
  • Council Report on the Study Group
  • Stability Pact
  • Former Yugoslavia/Croatia
  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation
  • Relation with Asia
  • Relations with Republic of Korea
  • Relations with Russia
  • Relations with Slovenia
  • Mediterranean policy. State of negotiations with Israel, Morocco, and Tunisia. Preparation for Euro-mediterranean Conference
  • Relations with Turkey
  • Relations with Malta and Cyprus
  • Relations with Lebanon
  • Middle East Peace Process
  • Trade questions
  • Rum

9–10 March: Justice/Interior Council

  • Provisional agenda:
  • Adoption of provisional agenda
  • Adoption of "A" points
  • Fight against terrorism: conclusion of seminar on 17 February 1995, and follow up to the Ministerial debate at Informal council on 26 January 1995.
  • Presidency oral report on the state of work on the Convention
  • Article 2 and annex, remit and objectives
  • Article 5, rights of access
  • Burden sharing
  • Racism and Xenophobia
  • Convention on simplified extradition procedures (Presidency hopes it will be adopted)
  • Brussels II Convention on enforcement and recognition of judicial decisions in matrimonial matters
  • Protection of the financial interests of the communities (fraud) Customs Information Systems Convention
  • EDU (Europol Drugs Unit)
  • Minimum guarantees for Asylum seekers
  • Uniform format for visas
  • Title VI financing

9 March: Environment Council

  • IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control)
  • (common position)
  • Directive on ambient air quality
  • Revision to Birds Directive (orientation debate)
  • Directive on ecological quality of water (orientation debate)
  • Revision to Seveso Directive (orientation debate)
  • Climate change (draft conclusions)
  • Preparation for next meeting of the Commission on Sustainable
  • Development (draft conclusions)
  • Protection of the Mediterranean (draft conclusions)

10 March: Research Council

  • Research coordination
  • Role of Crest
  • IMS. Intelligent Manufacturing Systems Agreement Negotiating Mandate
  • "A" point. EC/Canada Scientific and Technological Agreement

13–14 March: Transport Council

  • Likely agenda:
  • Promotion of rail and combined transport (draft resolution)
  • High-speed train interoperability (political agreement)
  • Harmonisation of national boatmasters' certificates (common position)
  • Working time and training in road transport sector (draft resolution)
  • Dangerous goods adviser (common position)
  • Carriage of dangerous goods by rail (common position)
  • Agreement of mandate for negotiations with Switzerland on road and air transport
  • Ro-Ro ferry safety (ISM code) (political agreement)
  • Maritime statistics (adoption)
  • Maritime policy and external relations (orientation debate)
  • Aviation—external relations (orientation debate)
  • Aviation—flagging out (draft resolution)
  • Trans-European Networks (general debate)

20 March: ECOFIN

  • Provisional agenda:
  • Indirect taxation
  • Financial services
  • Court of Auditors report on 1993 budget

27 March: Social Affairs Council

  • Postal workers directive
  • Memorandum on social clauses in trade agreements
  • Resolution on implementation of legislation in the social field
  • Resolution on the role of women in decision making
  • Acquired rights directive (possible)

27–28 March: Agriculture Council

  • Sugar reform
  • Price fixing proposals
  • Plant Breeders Rights Office
  • Set-aside/Agri-environment
  • Report on milk quota implementations in Italy and Greece (possible)

30 March: Consumer Council

  • Follow up to Commission's Green Papers on Access to Justice and on Guarantees and After-sales service.
  • Discussion of French memorandum on future areas for consumer policy
  • Reviews of directives on consumer credit, toys, and cosmetic products Labelling of products
  • Cross border payments
  • Amendments of directives on unit pricing: possible adoption of common position as "A" point
  • Distance Selling Directive: common position (likely)
  • Precious metals directive

31 March: Education/Youth Council

  • Unconfirmed agenda:
  • Decision adopting the European Year of Education and Training
  • Resolution on improving and diversifying language learning and teaching within the EU
  • Conclusion of Education/training co-operation agreements with the US and Canada
  • Recognition of the academic and professional qualifications
  • Postgraduate mobility
  • Resolution on Youth Information
Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

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 6 to 7 February.

Mr. David Davis

The Council unanimously agreed the mandate to enable the Commission to open GATT article XXIV.6 negotiations with interested GATT contracting parties on compensation for tariff increases in Austria, Sweden and Finland following their accession to the European Union. No vote was taken. On EU-US relations, M. Juppe reported briefly on his recent visit with Sir Leon Brittan to the US.

The Presidency and the Commission updated Ministers on preparations for the concluding conference to adopt the stability pact in Paris on 20 to 21 March.

The Council agreed, without a vote, an EC position on trade policy measures for the mid-term review of the fourth Lomé convention, to present to the African, Caribbean and Pacific side in preparation for the EU-ACP ministerial meeting on 16 to 17 February. The Council also discussed the eighth European development fund, which will finance the second half of the Convention. The Presidency called a special meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 15 February, the eve of the EU-ACP ministerial meeting to discuss the size of the EU offer for EDF VIII.

The Council discussed current issues in the WTO, and possible new issues for WTO consideration. There was agreement on the importance of ensuring that the WTO was able to function effectively; and that outstanding sectoral negotiations were completed within the timetable agreed at the end of the Uruguay round. The Council asked the article 113 Committee and COREPER to prepare negotiating directives for the outstanding services negotiations for the Council to consider on 6 March. On new issues, the Presidency requested the Commission, in liaison with the Article 113 Committee, to produce discussion documents on the various subjects suggested for WTO consideration at the April 1994 Marrakesh meeting.

The Council agreed on the need for the early appointment of the WTO Director-General, and decided to make further efforts to promote the candidature of Mr. Ruggiero.

There was no substantive discussion on rum. The Commission proposals were referred to the working group for further discussion, before returning to the 6 March FAC. Lady Chalker restated UK support for the total abolition of all quotas on ACP and OCT rum by 1 January 1996.

The Council discussed developments in Chechnya and issued a statement

The Council discussed the implementation of the G7 action plan on nuclear safety to Ukraine.

On the Mediterranean, the Commission reported on progress in the negotiations for new agreements with Israel, Morocco and Tunisia.

The Council discussed the terms for customs union with Turkey and the forthcoming review of the Cypriot application for the EU membership.

The Council reiterated support for a peaceful resolution of conflict in the former Yugoslavia. They stressed the importance of recognition between the states which emerged from the former Yugoslavia.

On Croatia, the Council recalled its support for the international conference on the former Yugoslavia's plan for a political solution and called upon the parties to begin negotiations. It reaffirmed its support for the presence of UNPROFOR in Croatia.

The Council reached a political agreement on the data protection directive and accompanying minutes statements. The UK indicated that it would abstain when the directive came as an A point to a future Council.

On relations with central and eastern Europe, the presidency outlined its plans for implementing the pre-accession strategy for central European associates agreed at the Essen European Council. There were linguistic scrutiny reserves from Finland and Sweden.

The Council agreed the following unanimously as A points: a partnership agreement with Kyrgyzstan; negotiating positions in the WTO on non-preferential rules of origin; a decision giving continued support to the European Union Administration of the town of Mostar; amendments to the Council's rules of procedure following enlargement; Council regulations on certain imported wines and amendments to regulations on the important of wines, grape juice and grape must.