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6 Jul 1998 : Column WA95

Written Answers

Monday, 6th July, 1998.

Uganda: Debt Relief

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to reduce the Uganda Government's external debt to make possible higher spending in that country on health and education while limiting military expenditure; and whether and when Uganda will benefit from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC).[HL2439]

Lord Whitty: Uganda's Completion Point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) was reached in April this year, and Uganda became the first country to benefit from the initiative. It will reduce Uganda's debt by some $650 million, or about $35 million each year, starting now. The United Kingdom has supported early and favourable treatment for Uganda under the HIPC because of its consistent, long record of prudent and constructive economic policy. In addition to the UK's bilateral contributions through further Paris Club debt relief, we have donated $10 million to help the African Development Bank fund its share of debt relief for Uganda. Uganda's recent (June 1998) budget has announced significant increases in spending for primary education and health care. There has been a regrettable increase in defence spending but military expenditure is still limited to less than 1.9 per cent. of gross domestic product. The UK last year gave £20 million to enable Uganda to implement its economic programme in 1997-98, including the introduction of universal primary education. The Secretary of State will consider in due course proposals for further support of this kind over the next two years.

European Union: Forthcoming Business

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union for July; and what are the major events for the next six months.[HL2523]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): See below.

This calendar is primarily concerned with European Union matters, but certain other relevant events are also included. Events and dates quoted are based on the information available on the date of issue.

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European calendar: July-December 1998

July 1998
1-2BrusselsEuropean Parliament
6BrusselsECOFIN Council
6-7ViennaPolitical Committee
8-10InnsbruckEmployment/Social Affairs/Women (Informal)
13BrusselsPolitical Committee
13-14BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
13-17StrasbourgEuropean Parliament
17BrusselsBudget Council
17-19Graz, AustriaEnvironment Council
20-21BrusselsAgriculture Council
23BrusselsPolitical Committee
August 1998
There are no Councils scheduled for this month.
September 1998
3BrusselsPolitical Committee
5-6SalzburgForeign Ministers (Informal)
7-8BrusselsSpecial Committee on
10-11LinzCulture Council
14-18StrasbourgEuropean Parliament
15-16BregenzTransport Council (Informal)
21New YorkPolitical Committee
19-22St. Wolfgang, AustriaAgriculture Council
24BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs
24BrusselsInternal Market
25-27BrusselsECOFIN Council (Informal)
28-29BrusselsAgriculture Council
October 1998
Date to be confirmedViennaMeeting of Heads of State and Government
1-2LuxembourgTransport Council
2-3LuxembourgIndustry/Research & Technology Council (Informal)
5LuxembourgWork & Social Affairs Council
5LuxembourgPolitical Committee
5-6LuxembourgGeneral Affairs Council
5-9StrasbourgEuropean Parliament Plenary
6LuxembourgEnvironment Council
12LuxembourgECOFIN Council
13LuxembourgResearch Council
13BrusselsPolitical Committee
19-20LuxembourgAgriculture Council
19-23StrasbourgEuropean Parliament Plenary
22LuxembourgFisheries Council
23-24LuxembourgEducation Council (Informal)
26LuxembourgPolitical Committee
26-27LuxembourgGeneral Affairs Council
28-29LuxembourgTransport Council
29-30ViennaJustice & Home Affairs Council (Informal)
4-5BrusselsEuropean Parliament Plenary
9BrusselsPolitical Committee
9BrusselsInternal Market Council
9-10BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
12BrusselsHealth Council
16BrusselsIndustry Council
16-20StrasbourgEuropean Parliament Plenary
17BrusselsCulture Council
20BrusselsBudget Council
23BrusselsECOFIN Council
23-24BrusselsAgriculture Council
25BrusselsTelecommunications Council
26BrusselsYouth Council
26BrusselsPolitical Committee
30BrusselsDevelopment Council
30-1 DecBrusselsTransport Council
1BrusselsECOFIN Council
1-2BrusselsWork and Social Affairs Council
2-3BrusselsEuropean Parliament Plenary
3-4BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs
4BrusselsEducation Council
7BrusselsPolitical Committee
7-8BrusselsEnvironment Council
7-8BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
10BrusselsResearch Council
11ViennaPolitical Committee
11-12ViennaEuropean Council
14-16BrusselsAgriculture Council
14-18StrasbourgEuropean Parliament Plenary
15BrusselsEnergy Council
17-18BrusselsFisheries Council

6 Jul 1998 : Column WA97

The following Councils are scheduled:

Monthly Forecast of Business for July 1998

July 1998
6BrusselsECOFIN Council
8-10 InnsbruckEmployment/Social Affairs/Women (Informal)
13-14BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
17BrusselsBudget Council
17-19BrusselsEnvironment Council (Informal)
20-21BrusselsAgriculture Council

The following subjects are likely to be discussed:

July 6: ECOFIN Council

    Approval of the provisional agenda.

    Approval of the list of A items.

    Work programme of Austrian Presidency: Open debate.

    European Council in Cardiff: Follow up.

    Preparation of Stage 3 of EMU.

    Commission proposals for Council Regulations on the harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (possible item).

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    Electronic Commerce: Draft Council conclusions on the indirect taxation aspects.

    Code of Conduct Group: Establishment of sub-groups (possible item).

    Services of general economic interest in the banking sector: Presentation of report by the Commission.

    Any other business.

July 8-10: Employment/Social Affairs/Women (Informal)

    No formal agenda.

July 13-14: General Affairs Council

    Agenda 2000: Work programme.

    Moldova: Establishment of EU position for the 1st session of the Co-operation Council.

    Tunisia: Establishment of EU position for the 1st session of the Association Council EC/Tunisia.

    Mexico: Establishment of EU position for the session of the Joint Council with Mexico.

    Albania: Preparation for the Conference on 21 July (possible item).

    Mediterranean policy (possible item).

    Switzerland (possible item).

    Western Balkans.

    Iran (possible item).

    Middle East Peace Process.

    Belarus (possible item).

    Euro XI.

    South Africa (possible item).

    Schengen (possible item).

    Co-operation Council with Moldova.

    Association Council with EU/Tunisia.

    Mexico Joint Council (possible item). July 17: Budget Council

    Draft 1999 budget.

    [other items may be added later] July 17-19: Environment Council (Informal)

    No formal agenda. July 20-21: Agriculture Council

    Agenda not yet available.

General Affairs Council, 29 June

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 29 June.[HL2524]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: See below. 29 June General Affairs Council

The Council approved the A Points in document 9835/98. The Council also noted the European Parliament Resolutions, Decisions and Opinions of its part sessions of 27-28 May, listed in document 8462/98.

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Copies of both documents will be placed in the Library as soon as they become available.

The Council agreed a EU mandate for the negotiations on a new Lome Convention due to open in September. It authorised the Commission to carry out the negotiations. All UK national objectives have been met, including: making poverty eradication the primary objective; renewing the EU-ACP partnership; streamlining development assistance to make it more efficient; and new trade arrangements which will be WTO-compatible and help ACP countries integrate into the world trading system. The Council agreed that Cuba should be accorded observer status in the negotiation process subject to strict political conditionality.

The Council expressed concern about the tension on the ground in Kosovo. It called for full and immediate implementation of the undertakings given by President Milosevic to President Yeltsin on 16 June. The Council regretted Belgrade's refusal to accept an increase in the size of the ECMM presence in Kosovo and reaffirmed its determination to provide an increased monitoring presence.

The Council voiced its strong disappointment that the commitments made by President Milosevic in Moscow did not cover all the requirements set out in the Cardiff Declaration, in particular the withdrawal of security units used for civilian repression; and that the conditions had not been created for rapid progress in the political dialogue with the Kosovar Albanian leadership with international involvement.

The Council reaffirmed the demand for the withdrawal by Belgrade of the security forces from Kosovo. All those in a leadership role in the Kosovar Albanian community should unite responsibly in making clear their commitment to dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the problems of Kosovo, and their rejection of violence and acts of terrorism. The EU remains firmly opposed to independence: it continues to support a special status, including a large degree of autonomy for Kosovo, within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The Council welcomed the recent adoption by the Croatian parliament of a plan for return of refugees. It re-emphasised the EU's expectation that the plan would be implemented immediately and in full. The Council confirmed the EU's willingness to participate in conference on reconstruction and development organised by the Croatian government in the light of such implementation.

The Council welcomed the positive reception in Bosnia and elsewhere for the 8 June Declaration and the launch of the EU/Bosnia Consultative Task Force (CTF). It looked forward to the first Sarajevo meeting of the CTF on 30 June, and to its contributing to the development of modern Bosnia.

Ministers discussed the role of the General Affairs Council in preparing for the informal meeting of Heads of State and Government planned for the autumn. It was agreed that ministers would discuss this in more detail in September. There was also a wide-ranging discussion of the need to review the working methods of the

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Council, and the overall co-ordinating role of the GAC, in particular in the context of Agenda 2000.

The Council discussed the mandate for opening negotiations with Norway and Iceland over their future association with Schengen after the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty. Good progress was made. Some points still remain to be settled; but agreement was reached on the main principles which should guide the EU in negotiations.

On the bilateral negotiations between the EU and Switzerland, Ministers noted with satisfaction the Commission's assessment that significant progress had been made recently, particularly on the issues of free movement of people and agriculture. However, Ministers also noted that further work was needed to conclude a balanced overall agreement covering all the sectors under negotiation.

Ministers discussed the situation in Belarus. They expressed strong disapproval of Belarusian action in removing ambassadors from their residences at Drozdy. The EU stands ready to resume a dialogue with the Belarusian government when the latter is ready to respect its international obligations. Further possible measures will be considered in response to the position taken by the Belarusian government.

The Council reiterated its full support for the current US efforts in the Middle East Peace Process, while underlining the need for early action to bring them to fruition. It welcomed Palestinian acceptance of US ideas for relaunching negotiations on the Palestinian track, and called on Israel to give a clear and positive response to these ideas.

The Council reiterated its deep concern at the Israeli government's endorsement of plans which would extend the administrative boundaries and alter the demographic balance in the Jerusalem area. Unilateral acts only complicate the peace process at a very sensitive time. The EU's position is that the final status of Jerusalem should be determined in final status talks and that neither side should pre-empt this.

The Council also adopted Conclusions on the recent Commission Communications on EC/Israel trade and regional cumulation of origin. The Council encouraged the Commission to pursue its technical talks with Israel on the problems identified in the first of these Communications, stressing that these should lead to concrete results. The Council recognised the contribution which the establishment of cumulation could play in promoting regional economic development and regional integration.

The Council discussed the provision of extra project aid to Azerbaijan. Ministers agreed that increased aid should be provided using existing instruments.

The Council welcomed progress at the first session of Burundi peace talks in Arusha. It urged all parties to return to the negotiations in July and hoped there would be sufficient progress in the negotiations for regional leaders to re-examine the sanctions they imposed in 1996.

The Council reiterated its concern at the humanitarian situation in Sudan. It noted the substantial assistance

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provided by the EU over recent years, but noted also the urgent need for humanitarian assistance. The Council reaffirmed its support for efforts by the Inter- Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to promote long term peace through a negotiated settlement. The Council welcomed the proposal that the IGAD Partnership Forum (IPF) send a mission at ministerial level to Khartoum and Nairobi to explore the possibility of securing a break in the fighting in the areas most affected by hunger to allow for the provision of humanitarian aid.

The Council expressed concern about the situation in Guinea Bissau. It called on both sides to reach a peaceful solution. It expressed support for mediation efforts undertaken by the Foreign Ministers of Portugal and Angola. It welcomed the efforts of ECHO and international organisations to provide humanitarian assistance and urged all concerned to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those who need it.

Over dinner, the Troika and Commission debriefed ministers from the Central European applicant countries and Cyprus on the discussions at the Cardiff European Council.

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