HC Deb 19 July 1996 vol 281 cc696-8W
Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the outcome of the General Affairs Council and the intergovernmental conference ministerial meeting of 15 and 16 July. [38630]

Mr. David Davis

The A points in documents 9021/96—add.1 and add.2—which will be placed in the Library of the House as soon as they are available, were approved.

The Council noted the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament in documents EP 8001/96 PE-RE45, 8162/96 PE-RE51 and 8751/96 PE-RE56.

The Council began with a televised debate on the Irish presidency programme. The President of the Council, Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring, presented his priorities, including preparation for European monetary union, employment, EU enlargement, the intergovernmental conference and work on the third pillar. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs highlighted the need to get down to discussion of specific IGC treaty language to press ahead with reform of the common agricultural policy and the structural fund which is necessary for enlargement, and the importance of progress in the middle east peace process.

The Council acknowledged Slovenia's letter of application for EU membership.

The Commission gave a progress report on relations with Switzerland. The Council reaffirmed the EU's wish to conclude negotiations as soon as possible.

The Council had a wide ranging discussion on the Former Yugoslavia, including an exchange of views on the future of the EU's presence in Mostar. The Council approved a joint action on Mostar and agreed the appointment of Sir Martin Garrod as EU special envoy in Mostar.

The President of the Council and Commissioner Van den Broek reported on their recent visit to the region.

The Council agreed conclusions on Former Yugoslavia which note among other things that the requirements of the Florence European Council declaration on the peace process, including that for the removal of Radovan Karadzic from the Republika Srpska political scene, had not yet fully been complied with.

The Council reached political agreement on the MEDA regulations on aid to countries in the Mediterranean.

The Council adopted conclusions on the US "Helms-Burton" legislation on companies trading with Cuba, calling on President Clinton to waive the provisions of title III of the Act and identifying possible counter measures.

The Council held an exchange of views on the political situation in Russia, and adopted conclusions welcoming the successful conclusion of the presidential elections. The Council also reaffirmed its readiness to continue to contribute to the reform process and to complete ratification of the partnership and co-operation agreement, but decided to convey its concern about the recurrence of violence in Chechnya to the Russian authorities.

The Council discussed the middle east peace process.

The Council declared its concern over the continuing deterioration of the political situation in Burma and urged the State Law and Order Restoration Council to restore democracy and respect human rights. The Council reiterated its call for a full and satisfactory explanation from the Burmese authorities of the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the death in custody of James Leander Nichols.

The Council agreed a declaration welcoming the 10 July resolution of the Organisation of African Unity Heads of State and Government on Burundi.

The presidency announced the appointment of Ambassador Kester Heaslip as the presidency's special representative on Cyprus.

There was a general debate on preparation for the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Singapore in December. The presidency drew procedural conclusions: the Council will return to the subject in the autumn.

On 15 July there was an IGC ministerial meeting. Foreign Ministers had a brief discussion on handling of the IGC. The Irish presidency confirmed that there would be a special European Council in October, and that it would prepare a draft revised treaty text for the second European Council in December.

There was also the customary briefing session with representatives of the European Parliament.