HC Deb 02 February 1999 vol 324 cc590-1W
Mr. Jim Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the outcome of the General Affairs Council held in Brussels on 25 and 26 January; and if he will make a statement. [68321]

Ms Quin

1. The General Affairs Council in Brussels on 25 January 1999 adopted the A points listed in document 5416/98 and noted the resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament in its sessions of 2–3 December and 14–18 December listed in documents 12779/98 and 14011/98. Copies of the documents listing the A points and resolutions will be placed in the House Libraries as soon as they become available.

2. The Council began with the debate on the Presidency programme, introduced by the German Foreign Minister.

3. On Agenda 2000, the Council agreed (subject to agreement on the final package) two points of detail on the Structural Funds. First, it agreed a lower performance reserve (sometimes referred to as the efficiency reserve) than that proposed by the Commission and that Member States (rather than the Commission) should have the right to allocate these funds in accordance with their own criteria and circumstances. Second, it was agreed that it was not necessary for areas designated to receive State Aids (under Article 92(3)(c) to correspond exactly with areas receiving Structural Funds, although Member States should aim to increase the level of convergence. The Council discussed the importance of achieving worthwhile CAP reform within the limits of available financial resources.

4. The German Presidency then set out its work programme on EU enlargement. Two Deputy level accession conferences (19 April; 19 May) and a Ministerial level meeting (22 June) will be held. The Presidency plans to open negotiations on a further eight chapters, bringing the number of chapters open to a total of 15 out of 31 by the end of the Presidency.

5. The Council noted the agenda for the EU/Russia summit on 18 February in Moscow and agreed to the Foreign Secretary's proposal that it should include nuclear waste.

6. On Iraq, the Council considered developments in the UN Security Council and discussed a possible EU initiative aimed at enhancing the role of the EU in efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq.

7. On Kosovo, the Council expressed outrage at the massacre of civilians in Racak and recalled the message which the EU had delivered to President Milosevic. It also condemned UCK provocations. It welcomed the results of the Contact Group meeting in London on 22 January, in particular the goal of early negotiations on a political solution, following a meeting of the Contact Group at Ministerial level, to be held as soon as possible. It repeated its support for the work of Ambassadors Hill and Petritsch towards a negotiated settlement, and for the KVM. It agreed that officials should step up work on strengthening sanctions, including measures to stop the flow of money and weapons to Kosovo armed groups. It stressed the importance of the Kosovo Albanian leadership forming a fully representative negotiating team. It also recalled the role which the EU was ready to play in support of a future political solution, including through reconstruction. It extended the mandate of Mr. Felipe Gonzalez as EU Special Representative for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; and adopted a Regulation exempting Montenegro Airlines from the JAT flight ban.

8. On Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Council welcomed the outcome of the Madrid Peace Implementation; reiterated its full support for the High Representative Mr. Carlos Westendorp; and urged the formation of a new Government in Republika Srpska, determined to comply with the Dayton agreement.

9. On Albania, the Council welcomed the recent meeting between Prime Minister Majko and leader of the Democratic Party (DP), Berisha. The Council condemned the DP's continued boycott of parliament. The Council urged Albania to contribute to the efforts of the international community to bring the parties to the conflict on Kosovo to the negotiating table.

10. Ministers endorsed and mandated follow-up action on the operational points contained in the EU' s human rights declaration of 10 December. This enables work to begin on the Anglo-German initiative of an annual EU Human Rights Report. The report will bring to public attention the EU's activities to promote human rights worldwide.

11. The Presidency briefed the Council on the forthcoming visit to the Middle East by Foreign Minister Fischer, accompanied by the EU Special Envoy to the Middle East, Miguel Moratinos.

12. There was no consensus on a proposal by the Presidency to adopt the Code of Conduct on Arms Exports as a Common Position under Article J.2 of the TEU.

13. The Council reiterated its support for the democratically elected Government of Sierra Leone. It reiterated that the existing Common Position does not prevent the supply outside Nigeria of military equipment for ECOMOG, and agreed that the scope for further facilitating peacekeeping efforts should be examined.

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