§ Mr. Hood
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the outcome was of the General Affairs and External Relations Council held on 26 and 27 April; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting records; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. MacShane
The information is as follows.
Outcome of the 26 April 2004 General Affairs and External Relations Council
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Luxembourg on 26 April.
Conclusions were agreed on the Middle East Peace Process, Western Balkans, Cyprus and Africa.
General Affairs Session
Progress of work in other Council configurations
The Council took note of a progress report from the Presidency on work under way in the Council's other configurations (the Justice and Home Affairs Council and the Agriculture and Fisheries Council.)
Follow-up to the spring European Council: Intergovernmental Conference
The Council discussed the Presidency's plans for resuming negotiations in the Intergovernmental Conference on the draft EU Constitutional Treaty, with a view to reaching agreement no later than the 17–18 June European Council.
Commissioner Verheugen gave a presentation on the preparedness of the 10 Accession States (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) for membership of the European Union from 1 May.
He acknowledged their efforts to address the remaining areas of concern. He confirmed that implementation of the EU's rules and policies have been satisfactory and that no safeguard measures would be necessary at this stage, pending a definitive assessment once they had joined.
External Relations Session
WTO/DOHA Development Agenda (DDA)
Commissioner Lamy briefed on recent developments in the Doha Development Agenda (the negotiation agenda launched by the World Trade Organisation in November 2001 on Doha). The Council supported the Commission in its efforts and hoped to see progress by the end of July.
Commissioner Lamy also briefed on negotiations with Russia on its accession to the WTO, and on negotiations with Mercosur, which were aimed at concluding an Association Agreement.
Conclusions were agreed on Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia and the ESDP mission to Bosnia. There was a separate discussion on the planning and preparation for the Bosnia ESDP mission. The Council requested the Presidency and Secretary General/High Representative Solana to take forward the remaining strategic planning steps before the Istanbul NATO Summit in June.1733W
The Council agreed Conclusions on Africa. The Presidency debriefed on the recent EU-Africa Troika meeting, highlighting the African peace and security agenda, development, governance and multilateralism. There was also Conclusions on Sudan, which expressed concern about humanitarian situation in Darfur region.
China arms embargo
The Council exchanged views on the arms embargo against China. The Council agreed that the issue required further discussion and asked the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) and the Political and Security Committee to take this forward.
Ministers discussed the situation in Cyprus following the 24 April referendum on the United Nations settlement plan. The Council also adopted Conclusions.
Middle East Peace Process
The Council discussed the Gaza disengagement proposals ahead of the forthcoming Ministerial Quartet meeting. The Council adopted Conclusions based on the Presidency statement made at the 15–16 April informal Foreign Ministers' meeting.
The Council briefly discussed preparations for the 21 May EU/Russia summit in Moscow. The summit is expected to address progress achieved in the creation of the four 'common spaces' (economic; freedom, security and justice; research, education and culture; and external security).
AOB: EU-Canada—seal hunting
The Netherlands raised its concern about an increase in Canada's seal hunting quota. They were most concerned about the effect of hunting on the seal population and an absence of humane killing methods.