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25 Jan 1995 : Column WA79

Written Answers

Wednesday 25th January 1995

FOREIGN AFFAIRS COUNCILS, 28–29 NOVEMBER AND 19–20 DECEMBER

Viscount Davidson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council meetings in November and December.

Lord Inglewood: My honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Davis) attended the Foreign Affairs Councils in November and December. The Council of 28–29 November covered the following subjects:

On the White Paper on growth, competitiveness and employment, M Delors introduced the main themes for the Essen European Council. He said that there would be two discussions, one focusing on White Paper themes generally, and the second on employment questions.

Ministers agreed to release a first tranche of 15 mecu of the 35 mecu of EU macro-financial assistance to Albania. The release of the second tranche (20 mecu) will depend on a favourable Commission report on progress in economic and political reform in Albania and a subsequent Council decision.

Foreign Minister held discussions with Mr. Perez and Mr. Arafat and issued a statement which reaffirmed their determination to continue their support for the Middle East Peace Process, both politically and economically.

Ministers reviewed preparations for the CSCE summit in Budapest (5–6 December)

The Commission introduced a support package of some 200–300 mecu for Northern Ireland.

The Council agreed to put forward for consideration at Essen the interim report of the Consultative Commission on Racism and Xenophobia.

Ministers discussed preparations for the interim conference on the EU's Stability Pact initiative to be held in the margins of the CSCE Summit in Budapest.

A Partnership and Co-operation Agreement between the EU and Moldova was signed on 28 November.

The Council approved a negotiating mandate for Europe Agreements with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Ministers discussed the Presidency's draft pre-accession strategy for the associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The text was agreed, apart from a passage on cumulation of rules of origin.

The Council discussed the Commission's communication on a strategy for strengthening the EU's political and economic links with the Mediterranean countries, in preparation for a further discussion at the Essen European Council.

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Ministers reviewed prospects for the Association Council with Turkey on 19 December. The Presidency underlined the importance of concluding negotiations on Customs Union at the Council.

The Presidency reported on progress in the negotiations with Israel, Morocco and Tunisia. The agreement with Israel was close to conclusion, but the agreements with Morocco and Tunisia were delayed by unresolved questions on access for agricultural products to EU markets.

The Council approved a draft report, to be issued by the Essen European Council, on measures to tackle illicit trade in nuclear materials.

Ministers discussed a Commission proposal to provide balance of payments assistance to Ukraine.

The Council discussed the EU position for the ministerial conference on the mid-term review of the Lomé Convention held in Brussels on 30 November and 1 December. Agreement was reached on a package of measures to be put to the ACP countries on the programming of aid.

The Council discussed progress in implementing the Uruguay Round Agreements. It reaffirmed the determination of the Community and the member states to ratify the agreements before 1 January 1995.

Discussion of the Commission proposal for the Council to approve the OECD Agreement on shipbuilding subsidies was postponed until 19 December.

On Rwanda, the Council called for the UN to give high priority to actions to stabilise the region. Ministers supported a regional refugee conference, and endorsed an immediate rehabilitation programme to the value of 67 mecu, agreed by the Development Council.

In a brief discussion of trade and the environment, the Commission confirmed they were preparing a Green Paper on the subject, and expected to issue this next year.

On relations with the European Parliament, the Council noted progress on comitology and Temporary Committees of Inquiry. There was a brief discussion over lunch about some Member States' difficulties with the draft implementing provisions for the right to vote and stand in municipal elections of other member states (Article 8B1).

At the Council of 19–20 December 1994, the following subjects were discussed:

The Presidency listed items for action during the remainder of their tenure. M. Juppé highlighted five French Presidency Priorities.

On relations with the European Parliament, the Council agreed texts on comitology, temporary committees of inquiry (TCIs) and consolidation of existing Community legislation. Denmark voted against the decision on TCIs. These texts were then adopted by the Commission and the European Parliament at an inter-institutional conference on 20 December.

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The Council unanimously adopted a directive which implements the right of EU citizens to vote and stand in municipal elections in member states of which they are not nationals.

An Association Council with Turkey was held in the margins. It was agreed that a further Association Council should be held early in the French Presidency.

The EEA Council on 20 December reaffirmed its wish to strengthen the political dialogue on foreign policy with a view to developing closer relations in spheres of mutual interest. The Norwegians are now preparing proposals for a framework for political dialogue under the EEA which they will present to the French Presidency.

There was a discussion on ways in which the peace process in the former Yugoslavia could be taken forward.

The Council agreed to discuss Russia during the French Presidency on the basis of an options paper.

The Council agreed a new Community Generalised System of Preferences, to come into force on 1 January 1995. There were two votes. On the creation of a new scheme for industrial products the United Kingdom abstained, and set out its reasons in six statements for the minutes. The scheme passed by qualified majority. Renewal of the scheme for agricultural products was agreed unanimously; this scheme will be reviewed during 1995.

Agreement in principle was reached on the EU/Israel Agreement. The agreement was expected to be signed at the January Foreign Affairs Council. There was no progress on the EU/Morocco and EU/Tunisia negotiations. Morocco has rejected the Commission's offer on access for tomatoes and courgettes. The question of Tunisian olive oil quotas remains unresolved.

The Council agreed to endorse the results of the Uruguay Round comprising the Marrakesh Final Act, the Agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation, the Ministerial Declarations and Decisions attached to it, the Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services, plurilateral agreements on bovine meat, dairy products, civil aircraft and Government procurement, and the bilateral EC agreements with Australia on coal and with Uruguay on bovine meat. The Council also agreed an accompanying package of EC implementing legislation. All the above texts were formally adopted by the Council of Ministers on 22 December. All the necessary processes have thus been completed to allow the Community to ratify the Agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation: the instruments of Ratification of the Community and the Member States were expected to be deposited in Geneva on 30 December.

The Council received a progress report from the Presidency on the three EU/US Working Groups established at the July 1994 EU/US Summit. The groups' work covers Central and Eastern Europe, Drugs and international Crime, and the Mechanisms for EU/US Political Co-operation.

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The Council confirmed its Negotiating Directives, originally adopted in December 1991, for the Commission to negotiate a Co-operation Agreement between Euratom and the United States. The new agreement is to replace the existing US/Euratom Agreements of 1958 and 1960, the second of which expires on 31 December 1995.

The Council approved the OECD Agreement on shipbuilding subsides and authorised the Commission to sign the Agreement. Signature took place in Paris on 21 December. The Council adopted a Commission proposal that the Commission and Council should make a joint declaration at the signing ceremony to the effect that they would monitor the implementation and respect of the Agreement by all parties.

The Council agreed the adjustments necessary to the EFTA Accession Treaty following the non-accession of Norway.

The Chairman of the Consultative Commission on Racism and Xenophobia gave an oral report on progress. This followed the Interim Report of the Consultative Commission, which was presented to the Essen European Council. The Consultative Commission will submit its final report to the Cannes European Council, in June.

The Council approved Concluding Decisions allowing the entry into force of the Europe (Association) Agreements with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria and the Free Trade Agreements with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Ministers approved in parallel implementing regulations governing the operation of the four Europe Agreements.

DRUG LIAISON OFFICERS

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What contribution Drug Liaison Officers on attachment to British diplomatic posts overseas make to their efforts to develop international co-operation against the illicit drug trade.

Lord Inglewood: British Drug Liaison Officers, who are attached to diplomatic posts in a number of countries, play an important role in developing international co-operation in the fight against the global menace of the illicit drug trade. They are fully integrated into the work of the posts concerned, and carry out their duties in close co-operation with local law enforcement agencies.

In their work, these officers fully observe Home Office guidelines. These state that no police officer or public informant should counsel, incite or procure the commission of a crime and make clear that an informant should be instructed that he must not act as an agent provocateur.

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