HC Deb 20 October 1999 vol 336 cc601-4W
Mr. Eric Clarke

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of the General Affairs Council. [94880]

Mr. Vaz

The GAC adopted the A points listed in document 11573/99 and noted the resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament in its session of 13-17 September listed in document 10352/1/99. Copies of the documents listing the A points

and resolutions will be placed in the House Libraries as soon as they become available.

Preparation of Tampere European Council The Presidency briefed the GAC on Finnish Prime Minister Lipponen's tour of capitals. The traditional letter of invitation to Tampere would issue very shortly. The Presidency also briefly mentioned external aspects of Justice and Home Affairs co-operation, in the context of preparation for Tampere. There was no discussion.

Charter of Fundamental Rights After a very brief discussion, the Presidency concluded that there was agreement on their proposals for the composition and rules of procedure of the body responsible for preparing the first draft of the Charter.

ESDP Military and Non-Military Crisis Management: Preparation in View of the European Council in Helsinki The Presidency briefed Ministers on work underway on European defence.

Earthquake in Greece The Greek Foreign Minister reported to the Council on the extensive damage caused by the earthquake in Athens on 7 September. The Council encouraged the Commission to examine all possible ways of assisting Greece, making full use of the possibilities offered under the structural funds, on the basis of a specific evaluation of the damage.

Northern Caucasus/Chechnya, Ministers expressed their strong concern at the deteriorating human rights situation in Chechnya and at the risks of the conflict spreading. They supported the Commission package of 1.2 million euro of humanitarian aid.

Western Balkans The Council agreed the Commission's proposal for a pilot of the "Energy for Democracy" programme in Serbia, which will supply heating oil and diesel to the towns of Nis and Pirot, where opposition parties run the local administration. The Council discussed the possibility of lifting the flight ban on Serbia, but no consensus was reached. The Council welcomed initiatives proposed by the UK on tackling organised crime in Kosovo. The Council asked the Commission and other relevant bodies to come up with proposals. Foreign Ministers will discuss the issue further when they meet at the Tampere Special European Council.

Burma Foreign Ministers expressed their concern at the lack of progress on human rights in Burma. Ministers offered their full support for the forthcoming mission of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative to Burma and hoped that it would lead to an improvement in human rights and the promotion of democracy. The Council extended the EU's Common Position on Burma for a further six months, agreeing to review it after Mr. de Soto's mission.

EU Code of Conduct on Arms Export The GAC approved the first consolidated report on the operation of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and agreed to publish the report in the Official Journal. The report summarises actions taken by member states to implement the provisions of the Code and outlines priorities for future action.

East Timor Foreign Ministers welcomed the deployment of the International Force in East Timor. The Commission announced its intention to provide further EC funds for the UN Mission in East Timor and for the eventual UN Transitional Authority in East Timor.

Preparation for Seattle Ministerial The GAC continued to discuss the EU's approach to the negotiations on a new multilateral trade round. They confirmed the EU's strong support for a comprehensive round to be launched at the WTO Ministerial conference in Seattle (30 November-3 December). Foreign Ministers had lunch with the Israeli Foreign Minister, David Levy. Mr. Levy stressed the Israeli government's commitment to the Middle East Peace Process, and the importance of restarting all tracks of the Process. He called for strengthened links between the EU and Israel. The GAC welcomed EU Special Envoy Moratinos' initiative for an 'EU-Israel Forum'.

Meeting with Serb Opposition leaders The GAC met with representatives of democratic forces in the FRY. Foreign Ministers underlined the EU's readiness to support the people of the FRY in their efforts to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and the development of good regional and international relations.

Co-operation Councils with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia The first ever Co-operation Councils with the three South Caucasus states took place on 12 October. Discussion covered political co-operation, trade and investment, democracy and human rights and co-operation in Justice and Home Affairs.

Forward to