Letter from the Minister for Europe at
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Peter Hain) to the Chairman
of the Committee
GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL, BRUSSELS: 16-17 JULY
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 16 July adopted the 'A' Points listed
in document No. 10802/01 and European Parliament resolutions,
decisions and opinions adopted at its part-sessions of 30-31 May
in Brussels and of 11-14 June in Strasbourg, listed in document
numbers 8510/01 and 9111/01 respectively. Copies of these documents
will be placed in the libraries of both Houses.
Work in other Council Formations
At the Presidency's request and on the basis of a
Council Secretariat paper, the GAC noted the salient, current
work of other Council meetings, in particular of the Justice and
Home Affairs and Ecofin meetings. At this stage none of the issues
under discussion in other Council of Ministers meetings required
detailed discussion or co-ordination by the GAC.
Follow-up to Gothenburg, 15-16 June
The Presidency informed the GAC of preparations for
discussions on the Kyoto Protocol by the EU-US high level group
on climate change established at the Gothenburg European Council.
The GAC agreed conclusions noting those of the JHA
Council, of 13 July 2001, on security and public demonstrations
at European Councils and other similar international meetings.
It expressed its support for closer international co-operation
to strike a balance between ensuring freedom of expression and
peaceful public demonstrations. It judged it useful to continue
a constructive dialogue on globalisation and its consequences
with the involvement of parliaments, social partners, NGOs and
other representatives of civil society.
The Presidency presented its work programme for the
accession negotiations with EU candidates. It emphasised its wish
to maintain the momentum achieved by previous EU Presidencies
and to adhere to the 'road map' for the negotiations laid out
at the Nice European Council in December 2000. It would continue
to uphold the principles of progress on merit and of differentiation.
EU candidates would be invited to the informal meeting of EU Foreign
Ministers at Genval on 8-9 September and to the Laeken European
Council on 14-15 December. The Presidency announced its intention
to hold Deputies' Accession Conferences with the EU candidates
on 27 July, 25-26 October and 27-28 November and a Ministerial
Accession Conference on 11-12 December 2001.
Public debate on Presidency programme
dialogue with the EU citizen
The traditional open debate at the start of each
EU Presidency focussed on this occasion on popular disenchantment
with the EU. The Presidency noted that the majority of Europeans
supported the EU's main aims economic prosperity, a global
identity and a sense of freedom and security within Europe. But
they were also sceptical and felt detached from an EU with unclear
policies and procedures.
The Presidency concluded that Ministers were agreed
on the general malaise affecting the EU; the EU was not understood
and there was concern at the consequences of enlargement. Concrete
action was required in priority areas environment, health,
asylum and justice, and employment. It needed to emphasise the
values of peace, stability and prosperity. The EU also had to
improve communication, and relay a unified, positive message in
Middle East Peace Process and UN Relief and Works
Agency for Palestine Refugees
The GAC agreed conclusions expressing deep concern
about the current deadlock between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
It stated that there was no option but to fully apply the recommendations
of the Mitchell Commission without delay. High Representative
Solana was requested to continue his efforts to that end, including
as a member of that Commission.
The Director General of the UN Relief and Works Agency
for Palestine Refugees, Peter Hansen, also joined Ministers over
lunch to discuss the financial difficulties faced by his organisation.
Africa/Great Lakes and Follow-up to the EU-Africa
The GAC agreed conclusions which called for a co-ordinated
EU role in supporting implementation of the Lusaka Agreement,
expressed concern about the situation in Burundi, and noted the
forthcoming visits to the region by the Council's High Representative
Solana, EU Special Representative for the Great Lakes region,
Ajello, and European Commissioner Nielson.
The Belgian Foreign Minister, Louis Michel, also
briefed the GAC on his visit to the Democratic Republic of the
Congo and presented the Presidency's ideas for action in the region.
The GAC welcomed the priority the Presidency was giving to Central
The Presidency informed the GAC that EU and African
Foreign Ministers would meet in October in Belgium, following
on from last year's EU-Africa Summit in Cairo.
The GAC agreed conclusions which welcomed the start
of the political dialogue between the leaders of the main political
parties in Macedonia. It also adopted a common position on a visa
ban against ethnic Albanian extremists, to be implemented in due
course by a subsequent decision on the basis of a recommendation
by High Representative Solana.
The GAC recalled the need for all parties to co-operate
fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia (ICTY) and stressed the importance of the handover
of Milosevic. It also welcomed the decision of the Croatian government
to transfer to the Croatian courts, with a view to their extradition,
the file on two Croatian citizens indicted by the Hague Tribunal.
The GAC welcomed the success of the FRY Donors' Conference
on 29 June 2001, which will consolidate the Yugoslav authorities'
political and economic reform efforts, as well as the decision
to hold the first meeting of the EU-FRY Consultative Task Force
in Belgrade on 23 July 2001.
The GAC was encouraged by the peaceful nature of
the second round of parliamentary elections in Albania and expressed
the hope that the next government would continue its predecessor's
The Council also welcomed the adoption, at the Regional
Table of the Stability Pact in Brussels on 28 June 2001, of the
strategic framework and key priorities, which will enable the
Pact to focus its activities even more clearly.
European Defence: Presidency Programme and EU
Satellite Centre and Institute of Security Studies
The GAC took note of the Presidency's programme,
which planned to focus on three important elements: reinforcing
military capabilities, operationality, and EU-NATO relations.
The GAC also adopted two Joint Actions to establish the EU Satellite
Centre (in Torrejon de Ardoz, Spain) and the Institute of Security
Studies (in Paris).
The Presidency recalled the Gothenburg European Council
decision to review potential conflict prevention issues early
in each EU Presidency on the basis of a presentation by High Representative
Solana. The GAC discussed on-going and emerging crises around
the world, general trends in international relations, priorities
for future work, and the early warning and conflict prevention
mechanisms available to the EU and how these could be strengthened.
The GAC confirmed the importance of the Balkans and the Middle
East as high priorities for EU conflict prevention efforts. It
also undertook to consider further EU involvement in Africa's
Great Lakes region and in Indonesia. The GAC noted the Commission's
current review of its strategies vis-à-vis partner countries
in order to better address root causes of conflicts. Finally,
the GAC called upon other EU institutions and Member States to
include consideration of conflict prevention within their own
areas of competence, in line with the recommendations of the Gothenburg
AOB: Korean Shipbuilding
The GAC noted the Commission's proposals to take
a WTO case against Korea for subsidising its shipbuilding sector,
and to put in place a temporary, targeted defensive subsidy mechanism
for EU shipyards. Member States welcomed the former but there
were differences of view over the merits of any EU subsidy mechanism.
The GAC remitted further consideration of the issue to Coreper.
No formal votes were taken on the points under discussion
at the GAC.
I am addressing a separate copy of this letter to
Lord Brabazon and copying this letter to your Clerk, the Clerk
to the European Union Committee and to Les Saunders, Cabinet Office
23 July 2001