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Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 6 March 2002, ref. 40849, Official Report, column 395W, if he will conduct an internal analysis on the future of the various recurring annual direct and indirect (a) costs and (b) benefits arising from UK membership of the European Union. 
Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the outcome was of the General Affairs Council held in Brussels on 1819 February; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including its voting and record; and if he will make a statement. 
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Peter Hain: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I represented the UK at the Council. The GAC adopted the "A" points listed in document 6220/02. It also noted the resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament listed in document 5079/02 PE-RE 5. Copies of these documents have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. No formal votes were taken. Conclusions were reached by consensus on a number of issues, as follows.
The Council heard a report from the head of the EU election observation mission, whom the Government of Zimbabwe had refused to accredit. Ambassador Schori's report confirmed that the conditions did not exist for the EU to mount a credible mission. On 28 January, the Council had agreed that the consultations with Zimbabwe under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement would be closed and targeted sanctions implemented if the Government of Zimbabwe prevented the deployment of an EU election observation mission, or if it prevented the mission from operating effectively, or prevented the international media from having free access to cover the election, or if there was a serious deterioration in the situation on the ground, or if the election was assessed as not being free and fair.
At the February GAC, the Council concluded that the principles enshrined in Article 9 of the Cotonou Agreement had not been respected despite all efforts made by the European Union through Article 8 dialogue and later, Article 96 consultations. Consequently, and in the light of its January agreement, the Council decided to close Article 96 consultations and take appropriate measures. Furthermore, the Council decided to implement targeted sanctions in the form of an embargo on the sale, supply or transfer of arms and technical advice, assistance or training related to military activities and an embargo on the sale or supply of equipment which could be used for internal repression in Zimbabwe, as well as a travel ban on persons who engage in serious violations of human rights and of the freedom of opinion, of association and of peaceful assembly in Zimbabwe and a freezing of their funds, other financial assets or economic resources. The Council also decided to withdraw without delay all EU electoral observers still present in Zimbabwe.
The Council took stock of a presidency report on work on the most important issues currently under discussion in other Council configurations, including topics being considered in the ECOFIN, Agriculture, Justice and Home Affairs and Education Councils. The Council noted that a number of these issues were of particular relevance in the run-up to the spring European Council in Barcelona. The Council also agreed to monitor the work of the Convention on the future of the European Union.
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Barcelona European Council
The presidency outlined plans for practical organisation of the Barcelona European Council, noting that the GAC on 1112 March would focus on substantive preparations. The Council agreed that the Barcelona European Council should take a number of concrete steps on priority actions to be taken to ensure delivery of the EU's economic reform strategy set at the Lisbon European Council in 2000.
The Council noted that separate meetings with Heads of State or Government, Foreign Ministers and Finance Ministers from the candidate countries would be held during the Barcelona Council. The Council was informed that a summit with social partners would take place on 14 March with the participation of the President of the European Council, the President of the Commission, the Prime Ministers of Denmark and Greece, as well as their respective Employment Ministers.
The Council noted a Commission presentation on financial aspects of the enlargement negotiations, following recent discussions by Foreign and Finance Ministers. The Council invited the Commission to submit draft common positions for the negotiating chapters on Financial and Budgetary Provisions, Agriculture and Regional Policy and Co-ordination of Structural Instruments as soon as possible, taking into account the Council's deliberations. The Council recalled that timely production of these draft common positions was essential in order to keep to the road map laid down by the Nice European Council and the timetable for concluding negotiations agreed by the European Councils in Goteborg and Laeken. The Council reaffirmed that the negotiations will be based on the present acquis and on the financial framework ceilings decided by the European Council in Berlin in 1999.
The Council heard a Commission presentation of the update to the second report on economic and social cohesion. The report updates the data presented in January 2001, analyses potential disparities in a Union of 25 and summarises the debate on future cohesion policy after enlargement. The Council instructed the Permanent Representatives Committee to examine this report with a view to further work by the Council in due course.
The Council held a policy debate on ways for the Union to achieve more effective and comprehensive external action on the basis of a presidency paper and report by the Commission. Ministers addressed the relationship between development and foreign policy objectives; the need for improved flexibility and responsiveness; and the need for speedy delivery of external assistance and the quality of such assistance. The presidency suggested in particular that the Secretary-General/High Representative and the Commission looked further at specific areas of work for improving effectiveness, including the use of case studies, improved co-ordination in the field, better use of decentralisation and improving inter-pillar co-ordination. The outcome of this work should be submitted to the May GAC, at which an initial review could be undertaken with a possible further review in the autumn.
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Middle East Peace Process
The Foreign Secretary and the German Foreign Minister both briefed partners on their visits to the middle east. The GAC reaffirmed the EU's view, as set out in the Laeken European Council declaration, that a political perspective must be established if there is to be sustained progress. It was accepted that an improved security situation was an essential first step and this required determined action by the Palestinian Authority. The importance of close EU-US co-ordination was stressed. High Representative Solana was asked to return to the region.
The Commission presented proposals for increasing the quantity and quality of official development assistance (ODA). The Council invited the Permanent Representatives Committee to examine the Commission's proposals before the March General Affairs Council so that the Union can make an important contribution to the success of the UN conference, to be held that month in Mexico, through the adoption of positive initiatives.
High Representative Solana briefed Ministers on developments in Montenegro. On Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), High Representative Petritsch outlined the recent achievements and the likely future challenges. He confirmed that he would step down by the end of May, to be succeeded by Lord Ashdown. The Council expressed its willingness to appoint Lord Ashdown as the EU Special Representative in BiH (EUSR) when he becomes High Representative. The Council announced the EU's readiness to ensure the follow-on to the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF) in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2003.
There was a brief discussion on the basis of a presidency paper on options for including counter- terrorism co-operation in future EU/third country agreements. Officials were invited to continue work, on the basis that there should be rapid progress to incorporate the EU's commitment to counter-terrorism into future agreements.
Mr. Bradshaw: We have not received any formal representations about human rights abuses in Nepal, although my officials are in contact with human rights NGOs and regularly discuss the situation with them.
We are aware of allegations in the Nepalese media of human rights abuses by the Royal Nepalese Army. We are concerned about this, and have made our views clear to the Government of Nepal: I myself did so during my
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visit to Kathmandu last month. Prime Minister Deuba has repeatedly stressed that abuses will not be tolerated. The Nepalese authorities have professed the need for improvement, and have undertaken to co-operate with the international community to achieve this.
The British embassy's human rights adviser in Kathmandu is monitoring the human rights situation closely and developing strategies to assist the Nepalese Government and civil society in tackling human rights issues.
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