Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS COUNCIL, LUXEMBOURG, APRIL 2006

Letter from Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman

  The next GAERC will be held in Luxembourg 10-11 April. My Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary will represent the UK on 10 April with my Honourable Friend Gareth Thomas, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, doing so for a half-day discussion on 11 April. The agenda items to be covered are as follows:

FOREIGN MINISTERS

General Affairs

Financial Perspective: IIA (poss)

  Foreign Ministers will discuss progress in the negotiation for a new Interinstitutional Agreement on the 2007-2013 Financial Perspective in the light of the 4 April Trilogue with the European Parliament.

External Relations WTO/DDA

  The Commission will update the Council on negotiations in the WTO Round following the trilateral meeting between the EU, US and Brazil (31 March-1 April) in Rio. At this stage we do not anticipate Conclusions.

Ukraine

  We expect a short discussion of ODIHR's report on the recent elections. We do not anticipate Conclusions.

Belarus

  The Council will discuss Belarus in the light of the 19 March Presidential elections and the decision to impose restrictive measures, agreed in the 7 November and 30 January Conclusions of the GAERC.

MEPP

  The Council will focus on latest developments. Conclusions are currently being negotiated.

  We expect the EU to continue to call on the new Palestinian Government to implement the three Quartet principles as soon as possible. The Quartet stated on 30 March that, having carefully assessed the programme of the new government approved on 28 March, it noted with concern that the new government had not committed to the principles laid out by the Quartet on 30 January.

Iran

  The Council will discuss the EU's wider relationship with Iran, taking into account the EU's areas of concern eg the nuclear file, terrorism, Human Rights and political freedoms, and Iran's opposition to the MEPP. We expect Conclusions to be short and to cover the nuclear file.

Iraq (poss)

  We expect the Council to discuss given the continuing debate on government formation in Baghdad. The Foreign Secretary will want to update Partners on his recent joint visit with US Secretary of State Rice on 2-3 April. We do not expect Conclusions.

Sustainable Development

  This is on the GAERC agenda as part of work to review the EU's Sustainable Development Strategy. The UK wants to see a single coherent Strategy that effectively communicates the Community's internal and external sustainable development objectives. Most interested Council formations are scheduled to give views.

  As Member States are providing written views to the Presidency, we do not anticipate lengthy discussion at the Council. Adoption of the revised Strategy is planned for the June European Council.

AOB: UN Reform

  This is on the agenda at Sweden's request. They have played a key role in UN reform issues, and their newly-appointed Foreign Minister, Jan Eliasson, has been President of the General Assembly since the World Summit last September.

  The UK supports the work of Eliasson, continues to remain engaged on the breadth of UN reform issues, and is equally keen to maintain the necessary pressure and momentum in New York.

  We expect discussion at the Council to be short.

DEVELOPMENT MINISTERS

EU Strategy for the Caribbean

  The Council is expected to agree Conclusions on the Commission Communication on the EU-Caribbean partnership for growth, stability and development.

  10th EDF: Financial Protocol and Internal Agreement

  The Presidency will ask the Commission to update Ministers on progress towards agreeing the implementing documents related to the 10th EDF. This item may also include an update on the EU-Africa strategy.

EU Aid Effectiveness Package

  The Council is expected to agree Conclusions on the Commission Communications, which form the EU Aid Effectiveness package. These Communications are:

    —  Increasing the Impact of EU Aid: Common framework for drafting country strategy papers and joint multi-annual programming

    —  EU Aid: delivering more, better and faster

    —  Financing for development aid effectiveness—The challenges of scaling up EU aid 2006-2010

  The conclusions will reaffirm and take forward various EU commitments on financing for development, including ODA targets, and measures to promote better aid effectiveness, A common framework for country strategies will be adopted for community aid and on a voluntary basis for Member State aid.

  Council Conclusions will also be adopted on policy coherence which will invite the Commission and Member States to prepare a rolling work programme by June 2006 with a view to adoption by a later Council.

Humanitarian Assistance: coordination and delivery assistance:

  There will be an exchange of views around coordination and efficient delivery of humanitarian aid, based on a Presidency paper. The discussion will be a follow-up to the GAERC debate in November 2005 by Development Ministers on humanitarian aid and will focus on three questions covering: reform of the international humanitarian system, the links between this and UN reform; and whether the Commission should provide more regular information on humanitarian issues to Council.

AOB: UN System-wide coherence:

  This AOB item has been proposed by the Netherlands. It will be an opportunity for Council to exchange views on this topic and discussion is likely to focus around the work of the Secretary General's Panel on UN System Wide Coherence.

5 April 2006



 
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