HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 cc409-11W
Mr. Caplin

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will report on the outcome of the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 26 and 27 October. [57853]

Ms Quin

The information is as follows:

General Affairs Council, 26–27 October The General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 26–27 October adopted the A points listed in document 12161/1/98 and noted the resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament in its session of 5 October—9 October and listed in document 11721/98. Copies of the documents listing the A points and resolutions will be placed in the House Libraries as soon as they become available.

Agenda 2000 The Council considered a Presidency progress report (document 12153/98). Ministers agreed on the importance of meeting the timetable for Agenda 2000 (agreement in March 1999). Ministers also agreed that decisions on whether pre-accession funds released by the accession of new Member States could be reallocated to the remaining applicant countries should be taken by qualified majority. The Council failed to agree the rate at which Community assistance should be given to pre-accession projects, but it approved Commission proposals for 100 per cent. funding of technical support projects, and for up to 2 per cent. of the budget being spent on preliminary Commission studies. There was general agreement on the management of the agricultural and structural pre-accession instruments, and the nature of the Commission's relationship with the EIB. The Commission presented its Own Resources report (Document 11666/98) on Member States' contributions to the EC Budget. It proposed various solutions to the net contribution imbalance experienced by some Member States, including the option of co-financing the Common Agricultural Policy.

Enlargement Ministers noted progress in official-level preparation of the EU's negotiating positions, ahead of substantive negotiations with the candidates at ministerial level on 10 November.

EC Fraud The Commission reported on the fraud allegations surrounding the EC Humanitarian Office.

CFSP High Representative The Presidency undertook to talk bilaterally to Member States about candidates, ahead of discussion at the 7 December GAC.

EU/South Africa The Council heard a report from Commissioner Pinheiro on his recent meeting with South African trade minister Erwin. Ministers discussed the outstanding issues in the negotiations on a Trade and Cooperation Agreement and possible ways of reaching a satisfactory outcome by the end of the autumn.

FRY/Kosovo The Council adopted a declaration on a comprehensive approach to Kosovo. The Council condemned action by the FRY authorities against the independent media as demonstrated by the prosecution of the owner and editor of the news magazine "Evropljanin", and by the adoption of the new law on public information. The Council expressed its support for Montenegro. The EU will consider ways in which it can continue to support Montenegro's economy and its drive toward political and economic reform.

Albania The Council stated its support for the new Albanian government. It welcomed the International Conference in Tirana on 30 October. It agreed the EU input into the Conference. It welcomed the supplement to the WEU Feasibility Study on possible options for an International Police Operation in Albania.

Middle East Peace Process Ministers issued a declaration welcoming the Wye Agreement and congratulating Netanyahu and Arafat on their achievement. Tribute was paid to the important contributions of Clinton and Albright and to the support of King Hussein. In light of the agreement, Ministers discussed ways to integrate EU work in support of the peace process.

Burma The Council agreed conclusions and a Decision: (a) rolling over the EU Common Position for a further six months; (b) strengthening it by including transit visas and Burmese officials involved in tourism; (c) echoing views of Burmese democratic leaders that tourism to Burma is inappropriate at present; (d) providing for a meeting of EC/ASEAN Joint Co-operation Committee with only a passive Burmese presence.

Malta There was a brief exchange under "Other Business" concerning progress on updating the Commission's 1993 Opinion on Malta.

EU/GCC Joint Council Ministers reviewed relations between the EU and the GCC, and agreed to increase the momentum of negotiations for an EC/GCC Free Trade Agreement. They discussed regional issues such as Iran, Iraq and the Middle East Peace Process, and human rights.

Association Council with Bulgaria The Council considered the functioning of the Europe Agreement, and Bulgaria's preparations for EU membership.

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