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The meeting was originally called to have an informal discussion about the future institutional development of the European Union. In the light of 11 September we, the Presidency and all our partners wanted to use the meeting to focus on developments in Afghanistan.
The continuing and wholehearted solidarity of the European Union in the face of the 11 September attacks was confirmed in the discussion in Ghent on Friday and in the statement which was issued, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House. The statement emphasises the crucial need to relaunch the Middle East Peace Process without preconditions.
Since the beginning of this crisis, we and our EU partners have placed as much importance on the humanitarian as on the military aspects of our campaign. So far this year, aid amounting to over 310 million euros has been mobilised by the European Union to relieve the suffering of the Afghan people. That includes emergency aid and food aid released through the world food programme.
The EU has also been looking to the protection of our own citizens. The Commission has proposed uniform EU-wide security and safety standards in aviation, standards which have already been significantly tightened across the EU since 11 September. The co-operation between civil protection authorities across the EU has been stepped up and we are developing an EU system for surveillance and control of communicable diseases, including an early warning and response system to help us deal with threats from biologicial or chemical agents. EU-wide legislation is being negotiated on common penalties for terrorist offences and a European arrest warrant.
Statements on the economic situation in the European Union and on preparations for the euro have also been placed in the Library. At the meeting, the importance of sticking to the economic reform agenda we outlined at the Lisbon Summit 18 months ago was stressed. The essential requirement in the present economic climate is to create jobs, and that will
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The FCO Annual Report on Human Rights was laid before Parliament as a Command Paper on Monday 17 September 2001. Copies were placed in the Libraries of both Houses and distributed throughout Parliament in the usual way. The report is on the FCO website (www.hrpd.fco.gov.uk) and is available through the Stationery Office.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): I am told by the Chief Constable of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary that the Somerton and Wincanton areas have 24-hour police cover and there has been no occasion when there was no cover between the hours of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Transport Council met in Luxembourg on 16 October. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Minister of State for Transport represented the United Kingdom.
This meeting of the Council was mainly focused on aviation issues, following the special session of the Transport Council on 14 September, which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State attended. In addition, the special European Council of 21 September had called on this Council to adopt measures in the field of aviation security. We are very pleased that the Council succeeded in doing this. The Council put in hand preparations for Community-wide measures to enhance aviation security.
The Commission presented a draft regulation establishing a framework of aviation security measures and inspection arrangements. The Presidency reported on the work of the ad hoc group set up by the special Transport Council which will examine further the scope for additional measures in areas such as crew training; checking and monitoring of hold luggage; securing cockpits; sky marshals; use of video cameras, and quality control of security measures. The Council also discussed alignment of security measures with those adopted by the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and the need for the issues to be further pursued at the global level by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State joined several Ministers in supporting the Commission's proposals. He also emphasised the importance of the EU airline industry restructuring itself and circulated a paper calling for member states and the Commission to try to prevent ownership and control clauses in bilateral air service agreements being an obstacle to airline consolidation.
The Commission presented its proposals for the Single European Sky, aimed at improving co-ordination of air traffic management across the EU and reducing delays through better use of airspace. This is an initiative which the UK supports and we look forward to seeing progress on it in the coming months.
The Presidency reported on recent developments at the ICAO General Assembly in Montreal. The results on aircraft noise were generally welcomed. Council conclusions noted that Council would give priority to adopting a replacement to the current "hushkits" regulation in the near future.
A common position was reached on proposals to establish a European Aviation Safety Agency. There were progress reports on proposals for occurrence reporting in civil aviation and on cabin crew training, which were remitted back to COREPER for further work.
The Council noted the progress report on the ERIKA 1 and 2 packages of proposals on maritime safety and related measures. The outcome of the packages is now satisfactory from our point of view, and we are pleased that a number of the issues have been taken forward by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). We look forward, subject to clarification on some points, to a decision in December on establishment of a European Maritime Safety Agency.
At a debate over lunch on the Galileo global navigation satellite system, the Minister for Transport set out the UK's concerns over the proposed joint undertaking management structure. When the Council resumed, the Presidency reported that COREPER would be continuing work on three main areas with a view to a decision on proceeding with the
The Commission confirmed that a full revision of the transport Trans European Networks (TENs) guidelines would be undertaken in 2004. An interim revision will boost Community support to 20 per cent for major rail infrastructure projects and cross-border bottlenecks on frontiers of candidate countries.
My right honourable friend the Minister for Transport was one of several Ministers who raised continuing concerns about the technical specification for digital tachographs. The Commission stated that adoption in December remained its goal.
There was a progress report on the proposal to extend the requirement to fit vehicle speed limiters to a wider range of vehicles. With a view to political agreement in December, COREPER will be continuing work on the proposal, seeking solutions on the scope of the proposal and the issue of retrofitting, on both of which the UK and some other member states have expressed concerns.