§ Mr. Connarty
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the outcome was of the General Affairs Council held in Brussels on 13 May; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Peter Hain
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on 11 May. Conclusions were agreed by consensus and no formal votes were taken.
Preparation of the Johannesburg Summit on sustainable developmentThe Council noted progress made in preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), which will take place in Johannesburg on 26 August to 4 September 2002. The Council instructed relevant Council bodies to prepare a substantive contribution on the EU's role in the WSSD process, to be approved at the GAC on 17 June and endorsed at the Seville European Council.
Annual Policy Strategy 2003The Council endorsed the Commission's three main priorities for 2003: achieving enlargement successfully, continuing to ensure security for EU citizens, and developing a sustainable and inclusive economy. The Council agreed that the Commission's suggested budgetary allocations would be studied in the framework of the Preliminary Draft Budget examination for 2003. The Council recommended that future versions of the Annual Policy Strategy should be presented as early in the year as possible to improve the coherence of the budgetary process.
Effectiveness of the Union's external actionThe Council noted work in hand and heard presentations on improving cross-pillar cooperation, strengthening the EU's role in international organisations, budgetary issues, development aid and the EU decision-making process. Commissioner Patten briefed Ministers on pilot studies aimed at improving the impact of EU external assistance and on the process of evolution of responsibilities to Commission delegations.
Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with ACP countries62WThe Council welcomed the Commission's proposal for a mandate to negotiate EPAs with the ACP countries, recalling that the ultimate purpose of the negotiations was poverty eradication and integration of ACPs into the world economy. It also addressed questions of ACP market access and WTO compatibility. The discussion will continue in the Permanent Representatives' Committee, with a view to adopting the mandate at the June GAC.
Renewal of mandates and financing of EU Special Representatives (EUSRs)Recalling the essential role played by EUSRs, the Council agreed to extend the functions and funding for FYROM and Afghanistan EUSRs and asked the relevant bodies to study financial formulae to make this possible.
Middle EastThe Council discussed the possibility of convening an international conference and welcomed the end of the Church of the Nativity crisis in Bethlehem. It thanked the Cypriot Government for its assistance and thanked member states for provisionally offering the 13 Palestinians involved temporary residence on humanitarian grounds.
European Security and Defence PolicyThe Council welcomed the participation of Defence Ministers, meeting as the GAC for the first time, and noted progress towards establishing the Capability Development Mechanism (CDM). It also acknowledged recent advances made in European military capabilities and discussed possible means of resolving current shortfalls with a view to meeting the headline goal.
Western BalkansThe Council conducted its annual review of the stabilisation and association process for south-eastern Europe (SAP), endorsed the conclusions of the Commission's first annual report on SAP, and confirmed the SAP countries' status as potential candidates for EU membership. The Council called on the SAP countries to devote adequate attention and resources to implementation of EU recommendations, with particular reference to strengthening the rule of law and judicial systems and visa and entry policies. The Council invited the Commission to assess progress made at its next annual review in March 2003. The Council proposed to establish a new ministerial-level political forum, linking the EU with the SAP countries. It also highlighted the need for a greater EU public information effort to foster greater understanding of the SAP. Crisis management in the Balkans, including the future EU police mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a possible mission in Macedonia, was also discussed.
IranThe Council noted that broad agreement had been reached on substance and objectives for developing EU relations with Iran. In addition to commercial matters, it was felt important that this include dialogue on terrorism, proliferation and regional stability. It instructed officials to pursue discussions with a view to a decision at the next GAC on a negotiating mandate for a Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Iran.
AngolaThe Council welcomed recent encouraging developments in Angola, including the signing of an MOU by the Angolan Armed and Unita forces culminating in a ceasefire. The Council, while expressing support for positive initiatives undertaken by the Angolan Government, called on the authorities to allocate the necessary resources to; reintegrating Unita and Angola armed soldiers into the armed forces, police and civil society; demining; and reconstruction of social and civil infrastructure. It also requested that the Angolan Government do its utmost the assist humanitarian needs.