HL Deb 18 June 1997 vol 580 cc113-5WA
Lord Gregson

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will report on the outcome of the 2–3 June General Affairs Council.

Lord Whitty

The 23 A Points listed in document 8568/97, the text of which will be placed in the House Library, were approved.

The Council noted the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament, listed in Documents 7145/97 and 8018/97. A copy of these documents will also be placed in the House Library as soon as they are available.

The Presidency gave a brief presentation on the themes for the European Council in Amsterdam on 16–17 June, emphasising that the priority would be bringing the Intergovernmental Conference to a successful conclusion.

Conclusions were adopted on improving trade access for the Least Developed Countries. HMG hopes that other WTO members will respond positively to the Council's call that they make similar commitments.

The Commission reported on the outcome of negotiations with Canada and Russia on a Framework Agreement on Humane Trapping Standards. The Council Conclusions welcomed progress made, noted the Commission's intention to issue proposals for concluding an Agreement and urged the Commission to report on progress in similar negotiations with the USA. A final decision will be taken at the 19/20 June Environment Council.

The Council adopted the Regulation creating a Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia. The Council also adopted the directives for negotiation between the Community and the Council of Europe concerning co-operation between the Monitoring Centre and the Council of Europe. It was decided that the Monitoring Centre will be based in Vienna.

The Council welcomed the results of the 28 May EU/US summit in The Hague, and noted preparations for the EU/Canada summit at Denver on 20 June. The EU/US summit was a success: key agreements were reached including on customs co-operation; there were detailed discussions also on drugs and crime as well as democracy and human rights. The EU/Canada summit will provide an opportunity to assess the implementation of the EU/Canada Joint Declaration and Joint Action Plan.

The Council noted the forthcoming EU/Japan sixth annual summit in The Hague on 25 June. Political dialogue will focus on the Korean peninsula and Hong Kong. The Commission will raise Japan's deregulation programme.

The Council agreed Conclusions setting out the EU's future policy towards Hong Kong after the transfer of sovereignty on 30 June. The Council welcomed the recent Commission Communication on future relations with Hong Kong and said that future policy should be based on a number of key guidelines, including Hong Kong's continuing high degree of political and economic autonomy under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The Presidency announced its intention to present a compromise solution to the Mid Term Review of the Agreement with Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs).

The Council welcomed the outcome of the Ministerial Steering Board in Sintra on 30 May 1997, which had sent a clear message to the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina that further obstruction to peace implementation would not be tolerated. The Council paid tribute to Carl Bildt for his efforts in consolidating peace in Bosnia and promoting lasting stability in the region. It offered its full support to Carlos Westendorp as his appointed successor.

The Council welcomed the decision by the Albanian authorities to hold elections on 29 June and emphasised that responsibility for the future of the country lay with the Albanian people. The Council adopted a Common Position which provides that the EU will help Albania, within the co-ordinating framework of the OSCE, to promote the democratic process, a return to political stability and internal security and the holding of free and fair elections. The EU will continue to support economic reforms and to provide humanitarian aid as needed in accordance with the conditions developed in its regional approach.

Having reviewed the recent EU mission to Kinshasa, the Council reiterated the EU's support for democratisation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and for the holding of elections, due in two years' time. The Head of the EU's electoral unit will visit DRC shortly. The Council urged the DRC to give full and unhindered access to refugees by the UN and humanitarian agencies. A ministerial troika will visit DRC at an appropriate time to discuss democratisation, humanitarian assistance and the future relationship.

The Council discussed relations with Iran and concluded that the conditions were not yet suitable for the return of the EU Ambassadors to Tehran.

The UK supported the Presidency's proposal for an EU declaration responding to the recent announcement by ASEAN to admit Cambodia, Burma and Laos as full ASEAN members in July. The declaration reaffirms the EU's commitment to the EU-ASEAN dialogue process but reiterates member states' concern about the situation in Burma.

The Council recalled the close ties between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean. It welcomed the proposal to organise a summit of Heads of State. A recommendation on possible dates, participation and follow up was requested.

The Council adopted a Common Position on conflict prevention and resolution in Africa. In many parts of Africa, progress towards sustainable development had been undermined by conflicts. African countries must take the lead in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa. The EU in turn had a responsibility to support African efforts. An effective policy necessitated a coherent mix of political, economic, development, social and environment instruments.

The Council welcomed the proposal that an EU/Africa summit should take place not later than the year 2000.

The Council recognised the lack of progress towards respect for human rights and the restoration of accountable, democratic government in Nigeria, and secured agreement to roll over the EU Common Position intact for a further six months. The Council also agreed a more consistent approach to the implementation of the EU visa restrictions.

A ministerial session of the Intergovernmental Conference took place on 2 and 3 June. It was preceded by an exchange of views with the President and representatives of the European Parliament. Discussion then progressed on the basis of the revised Presidency texts of 31 May (copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House). Subjects covered included Justice and Home Affairs; Flexibility; Common Foreign and Security Policy; Defence; Institutions; Employment.