HC Deb 05 March 1999 vol 326 cc940-2W
Mr. Jim Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the outcome was of the General Affairs Council held in Brussels on 22 and 23 February; and if he will make a statement. [73485]

Ms Quin

1. The General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 22 February 1999 adopted the A points listed in document 6078/99 and noted the resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament in its sessions of 11–15 January and 27–28 January listed in documents 5117/99 and 5120/99. Copies of the documents listing the A points and resolutions will be placed in the House Libraries as soon as they become available. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I represented the UK.

Agenda 2000 2. Foreign Ministers met on Sunday 21 February in advance of the General Affairs Council. Discussion focused on the 2000–2006 financial perspective, particularly on stabilising CAP and Structural Fund spending. Ministers agreed that further work at technical level on Community Initiatives and transitional arrangements was needed. Foreign Ministers agreed that the President of the GAC would report on the state of negotiations to the Informal meeting of Heads of State and Government in Petersberg on 26 February.

Implementation of the Amsterdam Treaty 3. The Presidency presented a paper on work in progress to prepare for entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty. There was some discussion, in particular on the Schengen Acquis. Detailed consideration of the paper was remitted to the Committee of Permanent Representatives.

Enlargement (Malta) 4. The Commission presented its Opinion on Malta's renewed application to join the EU. The Opinion recommends that screening of Malta's legislation to assess its compatibility with EU obligations should begin as soon as possible, with a view to starting negotiations at the end of the year. I welcomed this on behalf of the UK. The Council asked the Committee of Permanent Representatives to examine the Opinion in greater detail and report back to the GAC.

EU/South Africa 5. The Council discussed the package finalised between the Commission and South Africa to conclude the Trade & Cooperation Agreement. Despite strong support from a majority of member states, including the UK, no overall agreement was possible. The Council asked the Commission to continue contacts with South Africa, with a view to reaching agreement by the end-March deadline set at the Vienna European Council.

Special assistance to the new Independent States 6. The Council welcomed the Commission's plans to transfer 20 million euro from the Russia TACIS programme to European Community Humanitarian Office to provide humanitarian aid for those Former Soviet Union countries worst hit by the Russian economic crisis.

EU-Japan: Regulation on market access programmes 7. Ministers agreed the Regulation which gives a legal base to implementation by the Commission of export promotion activities in Japan. The Regulation will not affect Member States' national export promotion activities.

Kosovo 8. Ministers discussed the then continuing negotiations on Kosovo at Rambouillet, and expressed their support for the efforts of the Contact Group. The Council urged the parties to the conflict to come to a comprehensive agreement, including on the security aspects; and reaffirmed the EU's readiness to play a key role in the implementation of an eventual agreement, including through reconstruction assistance. It also noted that,

Treaties signed but not ratified by United Kingdom
ETS Date of signature Title
046 16 September 1963 Protocol No. 4 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, securing certain rights and freedoms other than those included in the Convention and in Protocol No.1.
072 28 May 1970 Convention relating to Stops on Bearer Securities in International Circulation.
077 16 May 1972 Convention on the Establishment of a Scheme of Registration of Wills.
101 28 June 1978 European Convention on the Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms by Individuals.
102 10 May 1979 European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter.
were a definitive agreement reached, Kosovo-related sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would be gradually suspended, linked to certain conditions.

Ocalan 9. The Council issued a declaration which reiterated its condemnation of all forms of terrorism; deplored the violent acts which followed the arrest of Abdullan Ocalan; noted the Turkish Government's assurance that Ocalan would receive a fair trial; underlined its opposition to the death penalty; called on Turkey to resolve its problems by political means; and noted the EU's readiness to promote conciliation.

Middle East Peace Process 10. Ministers discussed the recent visit of the Presidency to the region and tasked the relevant EU bodies to examine how the EU can continue to support the peace process. Ministers also asked the relevant EU bodies to examine possibilities for further Community support to Jordan.

Indonesia 11. The Council emphasised the importance of free, fair and credible elections in Indonesia. It agreed a UK initiative for additional Commission funding for the elections (7 million euro).

External Representation of Euro 12. The Council encouraged the Presidency to pursue its efforts, in accordance to the conclusions of the Vienna European Council, on Community representation in discussions by G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on issues of particular relevance to EMU.

Association Councils 13. Following the GAC, there were successful meetings of the Association Councils with Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia. They took stock of their preparations for EU membership, and considered the operation of the Europe Agreements. Over dinner, the participants discussed Kosovo, Russia and relations with neighbouring states.

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