HC Deb 27 October 2003 vol 412 cc56-7WS
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 13 to 14 October; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [134576]

Mr. MacShane

The information requested is as follows.

Outcome of the 13 October General Affairs and External Relations Council My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Luxembourg on 13 October. Conclusions on Wider Europe, Iraq, Iran, and Western Balkans were agreed by consensus.

General Affairs Session

Progress of work in other council configurations The Presidency gave a standard progress report on work in other Councils (Agriculture, Finance and JHA).

Preparation of European Council (Brussels, 16–17 October) This was a final discussion to confirm the annotated agenda for the European Council, the focus of which was on boosting growth. The agenda had already been agreed at the 29 September GAERC:

  • Relaunching the European economy
  • Strengthening the area of freedom, security and justice
  • External relations

MEP Statutes Discussion centred on a letter from the President of the European Parliament on privileges and immunities. It was agreed that the Council should reply saying it was willing to work jointly for a solution but the EP would need to show flexibility.

External Relations Session

Wider Europe Enlargement Commissioner Verheugen briefed on the progress on the Wider Europe/New Neighbourhood initiative endorsed by the Thessaloniki European Council in May 2003. Action Plans are to be developed for Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, and Israel. A package of proposals should be presented to the Council in spring next year.

Middle East Peace Process Partners discussed their concerns over developments in the region, in particular the security wall. The Presidency called for high level attendance at the forthcoming EU/Israel Association Council.

Iran Short Conclusions on the Iran nuclear situation were agreed without substantive discussion. Conclusions on Iran human rights were also agreed. These reaffirmed the Union's commitment to the human rights dialogue with Iran, the last round of which took place on 8–9 October 2003, as one of the means by which the EU can work to improve the human rights situation in the country. But Conclusions also stated that this dialogue was without prejudice to the possibility of promoting or co-sponsoring a Resolution at an UNGA session.

Iraq The Council confirmed the indicative Commission pledge of 200m Euro for the 23–24 October Madrid Donors' Conference subject to budgetary process. Partners emphasised the importance of Madrid. The Commission indicated that this should not be seen as a standard donors' conference but more as an opportunity to agree on a multi-lateral framework for Iraqi reconstruction. The Presidency noted that aid and security improvements should be pushed forward in parallel.

Western Balkans ICTY Chief Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, made a presentation on co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal in Yugoslavia, based on 9 October statement made to the UN Security Council. She highlighted the connection between war criminals, organised crime, and support networks in the intelligence services, army, police and clerical institutions. Conclusions were also agreed on the launch of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue.

EU-Russia There was a brief discussion of relations with Russia in the context of the forthcoming EU-Russia summit. The Council also took note of Trade Commissioner Lamy's briefing on his discussions with Russia on their WTO accession. Commissioner Lamy said that he would be returning to Moscow on 15 October to try to move some of these issues forward. There was no substantive discussion.

Forward to