Letter from the Minister for Europe, Foreign
and Commonwealth Office (Mr Keith Vaz) to the Chairman of the
GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL: 14-15 MAY 2001
I am writing to inform you of the outcome of discussions
at the General Affairs Council (GAC), in place of my reply to
the usual Parliamentary Question.
The GAC on 14 May adopted 28 of the 30 'A' Points
listed in document no. 8565/01 (nos. 10 and 25 were withdrawn)
and noted the resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the
European Parliament in its part-session of 2-5 April in Strasbourg
listed in document no. 7204/01. Copies of these documents have
been placed in the libraries of both Houses.
The GAC welcomed the agreement on a broad coalition
government in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
The EU would continue to support the process of internal reform,
including through the visit of the EU Ministerial Troika to Skopje
on 16 May and the continued personal involvement of its High Representative
Javier Solana. Following discussion at the GAC, the Commission
announced that the joint World Bank/EC donors' conference for
the FRY would take place on 29 June.
The GAC urged the ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosovo
to join it in condemning the new acts of terrorist violence in
northern Macedonia. It also called on Albania's political elite
to use its influence to re-establish peace and stability. The
ministerial meeting of the South East European Co-operative Process
(SEECP; comprising Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania,
Serbia/FRY, Turkey, Greece; and Croatia as an observer) on 16
May 2001 in Tirana would provide another opportunity to work for
regional co-operation and stability.
The GAC welcomed the orderly elections held in Montenegro.
It called for an immediate resumption of dialogue between Belgrade
and Podgorica with a view to redefining their constitutional arrangements
within a federal framework. A successful outcome would ensure
the EU's continued political, economic and financial support.
The GAC expressed concern at the ongoing serious
violations of the cease-fire in Southern Serbia and the lack of
progress in the dialogue between the Serb authorities and ethnic
Albanian representatives. It urged both sides to work towards
the early implementation of confidence building measures, such
as demilitarisation, multi-ethnic policing, the return of displaced
persons and integration of ethnic Albanians into local structures.
The GAC welcomed the progress made under the authority of UNSGSR
Hans Haekkerup towards a legal framework for provisional self-government
The GAC condemned all forms of separatism and nationalist
violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It called on political leaders
throughout the region to clearly condemn recent events in Mostar,
Banja Luka and Trebinje.
The GAC welcomed the initialling and looked forward
to the early signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement
(SAA) with Croatia. The SAA envisages the establishment of a free
trade area over six years, provides a framework for technical
co-operation and confirms Croatia's status as a potential EU candidate.
Middle East Peace Process
The GAC called on parties in the region to take all
necessary measures to stop the escalation of violence and work
towards a cease-fire. It welcomed and gave its support to the
Mitchell (or Sharm El Sheikh) Fact Finding Committee report and
its proposals, as well as the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative. It
also mandated the High Representative, Javier Solana, to work
with all parties to use the report as a step to restart political
The GAC adopted a new Common Position (CP) on conflict
prevention, management and resolution in Africa. It invited the
incoming EU Belgian Presidency to apply the CP in developing EU
policy, in particular, on the Great Lakes region. The Common Position
forms an integral part of the EU's efforts to develop a comprehensive
policy in the field of conflict prevention. The GAC stressed the
EU's intention to strengthen its co-operation with the UN on crises
Great Lakes Region / Democratic Republic of Congo
The GAC reviewed developments in the Democratic Republic
of Congo (DRC) and the implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire
Agreement, which came into effect in August 1998. The Agreement
contains all the essential elements for a peaceful resolution
of the conflict. It recognises the territorial integrity of DRC;
acknowledges the legitimacy of regional security concerns; sets
out a timetable for the disengagement of all foreign forces; provides
a framework for a new political dispensation through a national
dialogue; and has African ownership. The Council reaffirmed its
full support for the process, underlining the need to restore
the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC and for democratic
reform in the country.
The GAC reiterated its full support for MONUC ("the
United Nations Observer Mission in the DRC") and expressed
its satisfaction at the advanced state of deployment of the mission.
The GAC reiterated the vital importance of the disarmament,
demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation of armed groups
operating in or from the territory of the DRC. To be effective
this should be on a voluntary basis. The GAC called on Zimbabwe
and the DRC to end all support to such groups, and on Rwanda to
continue to honour its commitments with a view to repatriation
and reintegration. The demobilisation of child soldiers should
be a top priority.
The GAC expressed its continued concern over the
humanitarian situation in the region, as reflected in the latest
UN Secretary General's Report. It urged all parties to guarantee
secure, rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance.
It condemned the recent murder of six International Committee
of the Red Cross workers. The GAC welcomed the decision by the
Commission to provide 35 million euros in humanitarian aid and
expressed the EU's willingness to contribute more when conditions
The GAC welcomed a gradual resumption of development
co-operation with the DRC.
The GAC noted the report of the UN panel on illegal
exploitation of natural resources in the DRC and expressed concern
at its general findings.
The GAC reaffirmed the EU's readiness to support
an initiative to prepare an international conference under the
aegis of the UN and the OAU for peace, democracy and development
in the region.
The GAC expressed its concern over the stalemate
in the peace process, continued violence and humanitarian situation
in Burundi. It called on the armed groups, the Forces for the
Defence of Democracy (FDD) and the Forces National de Liberation
(FNL), to end hostilities and join the peace process. It called
again on all governments in the region to cease all involvement
with armed groups and to press the latter to join the peace process.
The GAC called on all signatories of the Arusha agreement,
signed in August 2000, to work towards a peaceful resolution of
the armed conflict, reconstruction and development.
The GAC condemned the attempted coup in Bujumbura
on 18 April.
Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia
The GAC expressed its deep concern over the deterioration
of the political and humanitarian situation in the region and
underlined the importance of the high level EU mission to the
area, planned to take place in May 2001. It also expressed support
for the imposition of sanctions on Liberia.
The GAC expressed its concern at the increased level
of political violence and intimidation. It reiterated its commitment
to pursue a constructive dialogue with the government. It agreed
that it would review developments in June and consider appropriate
measures if insufficient progress had been made.
The GAC welcomed the recent progress in the implementation
of the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It called
on them to reduce their arms imports voluntarily in the event
that the UN arms embargo was not renewed. (The UN arms embargo
was lifted with effect from 17 May 2001.)
EU member states will show restraint in arms transactions
with the region. The EU will take initiatives in the UN to encourage
all UN member states to do the same.
The GAC adopted a Common Position on Nigeria. It
highlights the EU's commitment to support Nigeria in its efforts
to consolidate democracy and advance socio-economic development.
The GAC noted Indonesia's strategic importance, and
stated its firm support for the territorial integrity of the country.
It also reaffirmed the EU's commitment of March 2000 to develop
closer relations, including through the Ministerial meeting in
Beijing on 24 May 2001.
The GAC noted some positive changes since March 2000,
including the consolidation of the freedom of expression, association
and religion, the strengthening of the legal and institutional
framework of human rights protection, the continued growth of
an active civil society and improved relations with East Timor.
But it also underlined the slow progress in other priority areas,
in particular judicial, legal and economic reforms. In particular,
the GAC encouraged the Indonesian government to:
(i)continue governance reform
and further strengthen democracy and human rights;
(ii)make further urgent efforts to address and resolve
peacefully Indonesia's separatist and sectarian conflicts (e.g.
Aceh, Irian Jaya, the Moluccas and Central Kalimantan);
(iii)continue to improve relations with East Timor.
It called upon the Government to prosecute those who have violated
human rights but expressed concern that recent legal judgements
did not seem to meet the international standards of justice and
fairness. It also called upon the Government to disarm and disband
the militias in East Nusa Tenggara and to give refugees the option
to return in time to vote in the Constitutional Assembly elections.
The GAC encouraged early implementation of the Indonesian
Government's Poverty Reduction Strategy of October 2000 and urged
it to address the country's many environmental problems, including
The GAC reaffirmed its views of March 2000 of the
importance of enhanced economic co-operation and invited the Commission
to prepare a Country Strategy Paper setting out priorities for
The GAC took note of an oral report from the Presidency
and Secretary General/High Representative Solana reviewing progress
on establishing permanent structures, military capabilities and
civilian capabilities (progress towards reaching the Feira police
target), EU operational capability, EU-NATO relations and co-operation
with the UN and the OSCE. The GAC approved the EU's exercise programme
and an exercise policy document which, in line with the conclusions
of the Nice European Council, aim to realise the EU's planned
crisis management capability.
Preparations for Gothenburg
The Presidency indicated that the main issues to
be discussed on 15/16 June would include enlargement, sustainable
development, European Defence (ESDP) topical external relations,
and the future of Europe. It recalled that President Bush would
attend the EU/US Summit on 14 June.
The Council discussed the Presidency compromise proposal
concerning the free movement of labour. This would allow current
Member States a transition period of up to 7 years before introducing
free movement for workers from the new Member States. Those who
wished could lift this transition after just 2 years. In parallel,
Germany and Austria could apply national measures to resolve problems
arising from the cross-border provision of services. A majority
of Member States supported this draft position. The Presidency
urged others to accept the compromise soon. They referred some
remaining technical questions relating to the protection of cross-border
services back to Coreper.
Over lunch, Ministers discussed the questions raised
by the Spanish Memorandum on Regional Policy and Enlargement and
agreed to continue the examination of this issue.
With regard to developments in Chiapas, the GAC expressed
regret at the Ejército Zapatista de Liberración
Nacional's (EZLN) decision to suspend its contacts with the Mexican
Government. It urged the EZLN to respond to President Fox's constructive
offer to find political ways to make progress on issues which
have not been included in the new law on indigenous rights. Such
a dialogue was vital to achieve a final settlement of the situation
No formal votes were taken on the points under discussion
at the GAC.
I am addressing a separate copy of this letter to
the Lords European Union Committee, care of the Scrutiny Clerk,
and also to Sir Richard Wilson.
6 June 2001