Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report

Letter from the Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Peter Hain) to the Chairman of the Committee


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 11 June adopted the 'A' Points listed in document no. 9555/01 and noted the resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament in its part-sessions of 2-3 May in Brussels and of 14-17 May in Strasbourg listed in document numbers 7207/01 and 8507/01. Copies of these documents have been placed in the libraries of both Houses.

Irish Referendum — Ratification of the Nice Treaty

The Council agreed conclusions which made clear that the Fourteen would contribute in every possible way to help the Irish Government find a way forward, taking into account the concerns reflected in the Irish referendum result, but that there would be no reopening of the Nice Treaty text, that the ratification process would continue in line with the agreed timetable, and that the Union was committed to sustaining progress in the accession negotiations.

Western Balkans

The crisis in Macedonia dominated GAC discussions. The GAC strongly condemned continuing separatist violence and urged the democratically elected Macedonian government to maintain a proportionate response. The Council welcomed President Trajkovski's strategy for disarmament and encouraged the authorities to begin the implementation as soon as possible. It also invited Prime Minister Georgievski to the 25-26 June GAC to inform it of progress in the agreed programme of political reforms aimed at meeting the rights of all people in the country regardless of ethnic origin.

The GAC welcomed the unilateral demobilisation by ethnic Albanian armed groups in Southern Serbia and the generally peaceful completion of the entry of Yugoslav security forces into the Ground Safety Zone. It called on the FRY/Serbian authorities and ethnic Albanian representatives to make rapid progress on further confidence building measures, including multi-ethnic policing.

The Council warmly welcomed the promulgation by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General of the constitutional framework for provisional self-government in Kosovo. This constituted an important step in the implementation of UNSCR 1244 and provides the basis for Kosovo-wide elections scheduled for 17 November. The Council further welcomed the measures taken by UNMIK to counter illegal border crossings and illegal possession of arms, as well as the imminent adoption of a regulation to help combat terrorism in Kosovo.

The Council adopted a report on the Western Balkans countries progress under the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP). The SAP is a policy framework which provides each country with a road map towards European integration, subject to fulfilling necessary conditions on regional co-operation and political and economic reform. Operational conclusions set out the next steps on the EU's relations with each country, including a call on the Commission to draw up a negotiating mandate for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Albania.

The GAC welcomed the Framework Agreement on Succession Issues reached on 25 May by five Succession States of the former Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). The agreement constitutes an historic breakthrough on this longstanding and difficult issue, e.g. division of state property.

The Council endorsed the document on EU priorities within the Stability Pact for the South Eastern Europe as a basis for further focussing the Pact process.

Middle East Peace Process

Ministers discussed the latest developments, notably in the light of information given by Secretary-General/High Representative Solana following his visit to the region (on 9-10 June) with Prime Minister Persson during which meetings were held with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, Prime Minister Ragheb of Jordan, and Chairman Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. Solana also briefed Ministers on the philosophy behind the report he would present to the Gothenburg European Council.

In the margins of the Council, Ministers met separately with the Palestinian Minister for International Co-operation, Nabil Shaath, and with the Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shimon Peres.

Preparations for Gothenburg European Council

The Presidency outlined its plans for Gothenburg where among other topics Heads of State and Government would discuss enlargement, the future of Europe, sustainable development, the Middle East, and the Western Balkans. It would be preceded by the EU/US Summit.

EU/US Summit

The Presidency and Commission briefed the GAC on preparations for the EU/US Summit in Gothenburg on 14 June 2001. They expected the following would be discussed: the Middle East, Western Balkans, North Korea, climate change, communicable diseases in Africa, WTO and bilateral trade issues. President Bush would join EU Heads of State and Government and Commission President Prodi for a working dinner. Secretary of State Powell would join EU Foreign Ministers, High Representative/Council Secretary-General Solana and Commissioner Patten at a separate dinner.

EU Enlargement

The GAC adopted conclusions expressing satisfaction at the Swedish Presidency's success in adhering to the Nice European Council road map for the accession negotiations. This included reaching agreed positions on complex issues such as the free movement of persons and of capital. The GAC also agreed conclusions concerning the Spanish Memorandum on Regional Policy, these reaffirmed that enlargement negotiations will aim to respect the road map set out at the Nice European Council and will be conducted within the framework of the Financial Perspective for 2000-2006 agreed at the Berlin European Council in March 1999. They noted that, while enlargement will have consequences for all Member States and for the functioning and development of Community policies, these issues will be addressed in accordance with [previously] agreed procedures.

Partnership for Europe

Austria proposed widening membership of the European Conference beyond EU Member States and candidates, and to establish a Conference Secretariat in the Commission.

AOB: One-day cruises between Turkey and Greece

Greece's concern to maintain one-day visa-free trips to the Greek islands from Turkey, following the entry into force of the Common Visa List, was noted. The GAC agreed to return to this issue at its next session on 25-26 June in Luxembourg, following consideration by technical experts.

In the margins: Accession Conferences with EU candidates

The Presidency chaired Accession Conferences at Ministerial level with the 12 EU candidates in negotiations to join the EU (i.e. all bar Turkey) on 11-12 June. These saw the provisional closure of further chapters of the acquis communautaire (i.e. the body of EU legislation and practice) by each candidate. Cyprus and Hungary have now closed 22, Slovenia 20, the Czech Republic and Estonia 19, Slovakia and Lithuania 17, Poland and Malta 16, Latvia 15, Bulgaria 10 and Romania 6.

Voting Record

No formal votes were taken on the points under discussion at the GAC.

I am addressing a separate copy of this letter to the Lords European Union Committee, care of the Scrutiny Clerk, Mr L Saunders, Cabinet Office European Secretariat, and to Sir Richard Wilson.

19 June 2001

[For a report on the Transport Council held on 27-28 June 2001, see Official Report, 9 July 2001, cols. 322-4 W.]

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 30 July 2001