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24 Mar 2005 : Column 988W—continued

European Constitution

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 17 January 2005, Official Report, column 701W, on the European Constitution, when a budget for informing the public about the EU, including about the proposed EU Constitutional Treaty, will be set for financial year 2005–06; if he will list the (a) individual budget lines and (b) sums allocated within the overall budget of £613,000 for informing the public about the EU; when the budget of £613,000 was allocated for this purpose; how much of the budget of £613,000 for informing the public about the EU and the proposed EU Constitutional Treaty has been spent to date; what payments have been allocated to non-government organisations for the purpose of informing the public about the EU and the proposed EU Constitutional Treaty; and if he will make a statement. [221369]

Mr. MacShane: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) budget for communications activities on the EU for financial year (FY) 2005–06 has not yet been allocated. FCO departmental budgets will be confirmed over the next month. The current Europe Directorate budget of £613,000 for EU communications activities for FY 2004–05 is allocated towards various communications activities, including media relations (£55,000), materials (£160,000), ministerial regional visits (£25,000), e-communications (£80,000), partnership marketing (£20,000) and development of a longer-term communications strategy (£55,000). Exact expenditure will be confirmed at the end of FY 2004–05.

The FCO's budget for EU communications activities in 2004–05 was initially set at £200,000. This was increased to £613,000 in the mid-year spending review in November 2004.

No payments have been allocated to non-governmental organisations for the purpose of informing the public about the EU and the proposed EU Constitutional Treaty.

European Union

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals have been made, and by whom, for a change of name of European Union (a) regulations and (b) directives; what the policy of the Government are on the proposals; what consultations the Government have undertaken on those proposals; and by what procedure such a change would be made. [223205]

Mr. MacShane: These proposals are to be found in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe which the Government support and have put forward for
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consideration by both Houses of Parliament. Specifically, Article I-33 of the Constitutional Treaty, which describes the legal acts of the Union, provides for (among other things) European laws and European framework laws. The definition of a European law" in Article I-33 corresponds closely to the definition of a regulation" in the existing Article 249 TEC and the definition of a European framework law" in Article I-33 corresponds to the definition of a directive" in Article 249. Further detail on these points is set out in Command Paper 6459, page 32—the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Commentary on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.

General Affairs and External Relations Council

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 16 March; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including their voting record; and if he will make a statement. [223195]

Mr. MacShane: The information is as follows:

Outcome of the 16 March 2005 General Affairs and External Relations Council

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and John Grant (UK Permanent Representative to the EU) represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels on 16 March 2005.

Conclusions were agreed on the Middle East, Human Rights—Preparation for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Lebanon, Croatia, and Iran.

General Affairs Session

Preparations for the European Council—22–23 March, Brussels

The Council discussed the revised European Council Conclusions. Member states raised the importance of the Lisbon Strategy and the importance of growth and employment. UK and a number of other member states underlined the importance of further developing the EU's medium and long-term strategy to tackle climate change. Language was also agreed on better regulation and administrative burdens. Overall, member states thought that the text represented a good balance. The Government agree.


The Council referred to the Conclusions reached by the European Council in June 2004 confirming Croatia as a candidate for membership as well as further Conclusions reached in December 2004. The Council reaffirmed the EU's commitment to the accession of Croatia and referred to the importance of full cooperation with the ICTY on the part of all Western Balkans countries as an essential requirement for closer relations with the EU. After deliberation by the Council it was agreed that the opening of accession negotiations should be postponed. Conclusions were accordingly agreed reiterating the importance of Croatia co-operating fully with ICTY, and confirming that negotiations would open as soon as the Council had established that Croatia was so doing. The Government underlined their desire to see Croatia as a full member
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of the EU as soon as possible but reiterated that this could only happen when there was full cooperation with the ICTY.

Future financing 2007–13

The presidency presented its so-called negotiating box" for future financing—essentially a list of issues up for negotiation in the form of possible June European Council Conclusions. The presidency did not invite comments. The Government's position on future financing remains that the Commission's proposals for real term spending increases of 35 per cent. from 2007 to 2013 are unrealistic and unacceptable. We, along with France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden, believe that the priorities of an enlarged Union can be met within a budget of 1 per cent. EU GNI. This is sufficient to meet the challenge of cohesion provided that resources are focused on priorities—namely the poorest member states.

External Relations Session

Middle East

Over lunch the Foreign Secretary briefed Partners on the outcome of the London Meeting and thanked them for their support. There was agreement on the need for continued EU engagement. Ministers then turned to the situation in Lebanon, reaffirming their strong support for a sovereign, independent and democratic Lebanon. They welcomed the commitment to these values shown by the people of Lebanon. They highlighted the importance for the EU that the forthcoming legislative elections in Lebanon be held in accordance with a free and fair electoral process based on the Lebanese constitution, free from foreign interference. The EU will closely monitor the electoral process and be ready to provide assistance. This may, if invited, include sending an election observation mission. Ministers agreed Council Conclusions calling for a full and immediate implementation of UNSCR 1559, the withdrawal of Syrian intelligence services, and the importance of free and fair elections.


High Representative Javier Solana updated the Council on the state of play of negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme undertaken by France, Germany and the UK (the 'E3'), plus the Council Secretariat. Ministers exchanged views on the negotiations. They expressed their support for the E3's approach, welcoming the support from the international community and the announcement by the United States on 11 March that it would actively support these negotiations.


The presidency underlined its commitment to conclude agreement on the Four Common Spaces as a package at the EU-Russia Summit on 10 May and drew to Ministers' attention the remaining issues. A number of member states raised the OSCE Border Monitoring Operation on the Georgia/Russia border and the EU's response to the blocking of its mandate. The Government welcome the progress made on the Four Common Spaces and supports the presidency in their efforts to reach an agreement.

Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)
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The presidency emphasised the importance of reaching agreement on the new GSP scheme to meet the commitment made by the Council and the Commission to countries affected by the Asian tsunami to bring it into force on 1 April. Ministers discussed the two outstanding problems, which were the graduation threshold for textiles and clothing and the granting of GSP plus" to El Salvador. Member states reiterated their positions on the graduation threshold for textiles. The Government had pushed for the same threshold across all sectors, but were willing to compromise and supported the Commission proposal in order to reach agreement in time for the 1 April deadline. However, member states arguing for a lower threshold were unwilling to compromise. The Council was unable to approve the new GSP regime. The Government will continue to work to ensure that a new GSP is agreed at the earliest opportunity.

European Neighbourhood Policy

The European Commission presented European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Country Reports on Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Egypt and Lebanon. There was no discussion. The Government welcome the timely preparation of the Country Reports and supports the inclusion of all of these countries in the ENP. The Government believe the ENP will provide a useful tool to encourage reform in all five countries, and progress on conflict resolution in the South Caucasus. We therefore support the recommendation in the Country Reports that Action Plans should be prepared for all five countries.


The Council exchanged views on the situation in Sudan, especially on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the conflict in Darfur. The Council expressed the hope that the negotiations underway in the UN Security Council would lead to consensus in favour of the implementation of a UN mission to Sudan and of measures that would end the violence and impunity in Darfur through referral to the International Criminal Court. This was reflected in Council Conclusions.


Over lunch the Foreign Secretary raised the 31 March Zimbabwean elections and the need for a fair but firm EU assessment. He highlighted that the UK remained concerned about the prospects for free and fair elections. Constituency boundaries had been redrawn in favour of Zanu PF, the voters' roll was a mess, newspapers had been shut down and foreign journalists prevented from working, and intimidation against the opposition continued. The elections should not be seen in isolation, but in the context of the political climate that had prevailed since the 2002 presidential elections. The changes that the Government had made in the last 30 days could not make up for the brutality and lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law over the past three years. The Foreign Secretary offered to write to Partners setting out the issues further.

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