Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


GENERAL AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS COUNCIL, BRUSSELS, SEPTEMBER 2006

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

  The next GAERC will be held in Brussels on 15 September. I will represent the UK. The agenda items are as follows:

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

WTO/DDA

  The WTO Round remains a possible item for the GAERC. Little progress has been made since the end of July. If the WTO remains on the agenda, we expect Peter Mandelson to brief Partners, including on the meeting of the G20 group of advanced developing countries he attended on 9-10 September in Rio.

Western Balkans

  We expect discussion and Conclusions to focus on the Montenegrin and Bosnian elections.

Sudan/Darfur

  There is an urgent need to persuade President Bashir to stop his military offensive in Darfur, accept transition to a UN force and allow the African Union forces to remain in Darfur until the UN takes over. Our key objective is to ensure that the EU plays an active, visible and high level role in achieving this. We are expecting Conclusions.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

  The Presidency have yet to decide whether there will be Conclusions on DRC. If Conclusions are adopted, we would expect them to focus on the political tensions between President Kabila and Vice President Bemba and the need for the second round of elections to take place on 29 October.

Middle East Peace Process (MEPP)

  The GAERC is likely to continue the Gymnich discussion on the EU's role in, and contribution to, the MEPP. I will debrief ministers on the Prime Minister's visit to the region and the Foreign Secretary's recent visit to Egypt.

  On Lebanon we expect discussion to focus on how the EU can support implementation of UNSCR 1701. I will also debrief Partners on the work currently being undertaken by the UK's Security Sector Reform Scoping team which has visited Beirut, Washington, Paris and Rome in recent weeks.

Iran

  High Representative Solana may brief the Council on his meeting with Larijani on 9-10 September. The Council may also be briefed on the E3+3 Political Directors preparatory meeting in Berlin on 7 September to discuss next steps at the Security Council. The Presidency are planning Conclusions, mainly on the nuclear issue.

Iraq

  There was a meeting of the Preparatory Group of the International Compact for Iraq in Abu Dhabi on 10 September where the Government of Iraq and UN briefed on the scope and proposed content of the Compact. This meeting provided wider political endorsement of the Iraqi vision for the Compact ahead of the discussion at UNGA on 18 September. We want the GAERC to endorse the Compact, ensuring a positive framework for discussions at UNGA.

AOB: EU co-operation with the Black Sea region

  Greece have asked for EU co-operation with the Black Sea region to be added to the GAERC agenda as an AOB item.

12 September 2006

Letter from Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP to the Chairman

  The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) took place on 15 September in Brussels. I represented the UK.

  The agenda items were as follows:

WESTERN BALKANS

  The Council adopted Conclusions on recent elections in Montenegro and forthcoming elections in Bosnia, expressing its concern about inflammatory rhetoric in Bosnia and emphasising that elections scheduled for 1 October should be conducted in accordance with international standards.

  The Council also agreed Conclusions on Serbia, expressing readiness to resume negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement as soon as full cooperation with ICTY is achieved and urging the Serbian authorities to step up their efforts in implementing the Action Plan.

SUDAN/DARFUR

  There was agreement in the Council among Member States, High Representative Solana and Commissioner Michel to increase diplomatic pressure on Khartoum to comply with UNSCR 1706 to accept transition to a UN mission.

  The Council adopted Conclusions stressing its concern about the deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur and expressing firm support for UNSCR 1706, which expands the mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to Darfur. The Conclusions also reiterated the EU's readiness to support the efforts of the UN and others in planning for the transition from the African Union Mission (AMIS) to the UN and urged the Sudanese Government to give its consent to the deployment of the UN.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

  High Representative Solana briefed on his recent trip to Kinshasa.

  The Council adopted Conclusions welcoming the meeting between President Kabila and Vice-president Bemba on 13 September and noting that cooperation between the EU military operation EUFOR RD Congo and MONUC, together with the EU's reinforced police mission in Kinshasa (EUPOL Kinshasa), had proven instrumental in maintaining stability during the electoral process.

LEBANON

  The Council adopted Conclusions stressing its commitment to supporting the implementation of UNSCR 1701 and welcoming the early deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon and the substantial contribution by EU Member States to the reinforced UNIFIL mission.

  The Conclusions called on the Presidency, High Representative Solana and the Commission to produce a report on a possible European contribution on the Lebanese-Syrian border and also underlined the EU's commitment to assist the Lebanese government in taking forward reforms in a number of areas.

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS

  The Council adopted Conclusions: underlining its commitment towards the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; welcoming the announcement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of an agreement to form a government of national unity; and expressing the hope that its political platform would reflect the Quartet principles.

IRAN

  High Representative Solana briefed the Council on his meetings with the Secretary-General of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Dr Ali Larijani on 9-10 September.

  The Council took note of the report by IAEA Director-General El Baradei of 31 August 2006, which concluded that Iran had not complied with UNSCR 1696 and agreed that it was now appropriate to consider next steps.

IRAQ

  The Council adopted Conclusions welcoming progress in developing the Iraqi International Compact and reaffirming the EU's readiness to participate actively in the Compact process.

AOB: EU COOPERATION WITH THE BLACK SEA REGION

  The Council took note of the request by Greek Foreign Minister Bakoyannis for the EU to strengthen its relations with the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and to develop a comprehensive policy towards the Black Sea region.

AOB: FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM—SECRET DETENTION FACILITIES

  Ministers reiterated their commitment to combating terrorism in accordance with international humanitarian and legal standards, including the Geneva Convention.

21 September 2006



 
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