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Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library the document being circulated by the Prime Minister's Representative at the Convention on the Future of Europe describing the role of the proposed President of the European Council. 
Mr. MacShane: The document under reference is an internal paper drafted in the Foreign Office. It is not a final document, nor a representation of an agreed British Government position. It has not been submitted to the Convention on the Future of Europe. As with other documents of this nature it would not be appropriate to deposit it in the Library of the House. The Government will, of course, continue to deposit all formal Government submissions to the Convention.
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 27 and 28 January; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. MacShane: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels on 27 and 28 January, 2003. Conclusions were agreed by consensus and no formal votes were taken.
The Council heard presentations from the President and the High Representative about their recent visits to the Western Balkans and from Commissioner Patten on Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) developments.
Separately, in the Council's public debate on the Operational Programme of the Council (broadcast live) the Presidency stressed that the Union's relations with the Western Balkans would constitute a major priority and that the EU was keen to capitalise on the positive results so far yielded. Work would continue on consolidating democratic institutions, protection of minorities, promotion of economic reconstruction and regional co-operation. The Thessalonika European Council on 21 June 2003 is expected to lend a new impetus to this process. I welcomed the Presidency's focus, and emphasised the importance of entrenching the rule of law. Several speakers referred to the importance of the fight against crime and corruption.
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Progress of work in other Council configurations
The Council took note of the Presidency's progress report on the state of play. The report highlights agreements reached on several important dossiers, including the Single European Sky, the greenhouse emission allowance, the Regulation on GMOs, the 'Dublin II Regulation (on member state responsibility for assessing asylum claims), as well as measures taken following the 'Prestige' accident. Particular attention was drawn to the ECOFIN agreement on the taxation of savings.
The Presidency debriefed on the successful conclusion of consultations with the European Parliament on the modalities for appointing the Members of the European Commission from the new member states for the remainder of the Commission's mandate, until late 2004.
The Presidency also outlined their priorities; these included taking forward the December 2002 Transport and Environment Council conclusions concerning measures to be implemented following the 'Prestige' accident; and continuing work on the 'Wider Europe' agenda, with the Western Balkans, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, and the southern Mediterranean countries.
The Presidency reported on its enlargement work programme and reiterated the priority it attached to meeting the timetable set by the European Copenhagen Council in December 2002. This included completing and signing the Accession Treaty on 16 April 2003 in Athens, ensuring the smooth integration of all new member states, and continuing to monitor the transposition of the acquis by the acceding states.
Recalling the European Council's preference for the accession of united Cyprus, the Presidency welcomed the resumption of talks between the two parties in Cyprus and their willingness to conclude a comprehensive settlement by 28 February 2003. The Commission referred to the possibility of a donors' conference to raise funds to support a settlement.
The Presidency stated its strong desire to maintain the momentum of the negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania and to strive energetically to strengthen further Turkey's accession strategy. The Commission confirmed that it would present, in March, a draft Accession Partnerships on Turkey, with a view to Council adoption in April.
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External Relations Session
The Council welcomed the recent progress on Serbia and Montenegro's Constitutional Charter and Implementing Law, and urged their early parliamentary approval and their full implementation. It called for the rapid finalisation of the Action Plans on internal market, trade and customs that would allow further progress towards the EU.
The Council welcomed the formation of governments at the State and Republika Srpska levels and looked forward to the prompt formation of the Federation Government. It urged the BiH authorities to proceed rapidly with the implementation of the reforms necessary for progress in the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP), including the establishment of a single state-level customs and VAT system.
The Council welcomed that former Serbian President Milan Milutonovic will appear before the ICTY but expressed concerns that co-operation with FRY and ICTY remained insufficient. Failure to co-operate could seriously jeopardise further movement towards the EU.
The High Representative, Mr. Solana, debriefed on the preparations for the first ESDP military operation. The Council agreed on a Joint Action to launch this operation. The conclusions noted that the EU had intensified planning and preparations in consultation with the FYROM authorities and with NATO and underlined its pledge to achieving a stable and secure FYROM, committed to full implementation of the Framework Agreement and making further progress toward European integration, in the context of the Stabilisation and Association process.
The Council also welcomed the successful start of the EUPM in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 1 January 2003, the first operation under ESDP. The Council welcomed the commitments made by the new Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to work with the EUPM.
Ministers discussed the renewal of EU sanctions against Zimbabwe (set to expire on 18 February), handling of the Franco-African Summit (Paris, 2021 February) and the EU-Africa Summit (Lisbon, 45 April).
The outcome is that Coreper has been tasked to pursue, rapidly, work on the draft Common Position on Zimbabwe, renewing the targeted sanctions, with particular attention on the procedure for granting any exemptions to the travel ban. The measures in place include: an embargo on the sale, supply or transfer of
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arms and technical advice; assistance or training related to military activities; an embargo on the sale or supply of equipment that could be used for internal repression; as well as a travel ban on and a freezing of funds, financial assets and economic resources of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and those bearing a particular responsibility for the observed violations.
In the discussion, we made clear that public opinion would not understand a failure to continue sanctions. We also made clear our firm opposition to the attendance of the EU/Africa Summit by President Mugabe. Several partners spoke along similar lines. Some others emphasised the importance of continued engagement with Zimbabwe.
The Council heard presentations by the Belgian Minister, following his recent trip to Central Africa, and by EU Special Representative, Ajello, on the implementation of the Pretoria Agreement. In its conclusions, the Council stressed inter alia that it could see no alternative to securing peace and stability in the Congo, other than through the global and inclusive Agreement on transition, signed in Pretoria on 17 December 2002. It urged all parties to complete negotiations on the outstanding points and to speedily establish the institutions required for transition. It reaffirmed its willingness to support transition to free and transparent elections, and intention to implement programmes to promote aid, the strengthening of state structure and the economic reconstruction of the country, as soon as its institutions are in place.
The French Minister briefed his colleagues on prospects following the agreement among the representative Ivorian political forces, reached on 24 January. Conclusions were adopted without discussion in which the EU warmly welcomed the Agreement and called for full implementation of the regional confidence-building measures in the framework of ECOWAS. The EU, alongside the UN, the African Union and ECOWAS, is ready to take on its responsibilities in that framework.
Ministers held a discussion against the backdrop of further deterioration and upcoming Israeli elections. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs briefed on the London conference on Palestinian reform. The Presidency intends to visit the region in February. The conclusions called on both parties to drive the peace process forward by supporting the efforts of the Quartet, called on Palestinian reforms to be speeded up and welcomed Egyptian efforts to promote progress on security issues and for a sustainable truce.
Ministers discussed this over lunch on 27 January. Several speakers emphasised that a diplomatic solution was desirable but would be possible only if there was unanimity in the international community plus a credible threat of force. War might still be avoided but it would require real pressure to get Saddam Hussein to
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change his approach. In its conclusions, the Council reaffirmed that its goal remains the effective and complete disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, its support for UN efforts to secure full and immediate compliance; its appreciation for the work accomplished by the inspectors so far, urging the Iraqi authorities to engage in full and active co-operation with UNMOVIC and the IAEA; the fundamental importance of preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and the role of the UNSC in the implementation of UNSC 1441. On the second day of the Council there was an informal and inconclusive exchange following the debriefing of the UN Security Council by Mr. Blix.
The Council welcomed the envisaged meeting between the permanent members of the Security Council and the EU, Japan and the two Koreas. The Council agreed to despatch a high-level EU mission to Pyongyang, in close co-ordination with the US and other partners. The SoS for FCA supported this initiative. The EU should stay in close touch with the major players. Other speakers agreed.
After initial reluctance by a few member states, the Council agreed that the Commission should table its paper at the WTO Agriculture Negotiations. The Commission was clear that the timetable for its proposals in the mid term review of the CAP remained unchanged.
The Council noted the Presidency's priorities for implementing the EU's Common Strategy on the Mediterranean Region from June 2000 under its three chapters: political and security, economic and financial, and social, culture and human chapter. The Presidency intends to give special priority to the implementation of the Valencia Action Plan adopted at the fifth Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Valencia on 23 and 24 April 2002.
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provision of financing for arms sale, as well as of advice, assistance or training related to military activities directly or indirectly to any person, entity or body in Somalia.
The Council adopted four texts amending a number of anti-dumping measures to avoid an excessive amount of anti-dumping duty being levied in situations in which imported goods have been damaged before entry into free circulation. In these cases the specific duty will be reduced by a percentage which corresponds to the apportioning of the price actually paid or payable.
Following the political agreement reached on 28 November 2002, the Council formally adopted the Directive laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers in member states, deemed sufficient to ensure a dignified standard of living. It contains specific provisions on residence and freedom of movement, family unity, schooling and the education of minors, employment and access to vocational training.
According to this instrument, each member state shall take the necessary measures to ensure that the conduct referred to in the Framework Decision is punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties, including, at least in serious cases, deprivation of liberty which can give rise to extradition.