Letter from the Minister for Europe at
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Peter Hain) to the Chairman
of the Committee
GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL, LUXEMBOURG: 8-9 OCTOBER
I am writing to inform you of the outcome of discussions
at the General Affairs Council (GAC) on 8 October, in place of
my reply to the usual Parliamentary Question.
The GAC adopted the 'A' Points listed in document
number 12356/01. These included the terms of reference of the
Joint Consultative Task Force with Albania and the third annual
EU Human Rights report. The GAC also noted the resolutions, decisions
and opinions adopted by the European Parliament in its part-sessions
of 2-5 July and of 3-6 September in Strasbourg listed in document
numbers 10413/01 and 11046/01 respectively. Copies of all three
documents have been placed in the libraries of both Houses.
Burma: Council conclusions
The GAC adopted conclusions cautiously welcoming
an improvement in the political climate in Burma. It called for
the release of all remaining political prisoners, including Aung
San Suu Kyi, permanent access for the International Labour Organisation
to Burma and for a verifiable end to the practice of forced labour.
The GAC agreed to extend the EU's common position on Burma for
another six months until 29 April 2002 and agreed some positive
measures, in recognition of the process set in motion in Burma,
including 5 million euros to help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS
Stocktaking of work in other Council formations
The Presidency informed the GAC of work in hand in
other Council formations. The GAC noted that the Commission planned
to increase macro-financial assistance to the FRY from 300 million
euros to 345 million euros.
Aftermath of attacks in US
The GAC issued a declaration expressing its strong
support for the US and UK military action in Afghanistan launched
on 7 October, stating that it conformed with the UN Charter and
UNSC 1368. No EU Member State or the Commission contested its
legitimacy or necessity. The GAC noted that the EU had also committed
316 million euros in response to the humanitarian crisis in and
around Afghanistan. The UN would have an essential role to play
in helping the Afghani people establish a truly representative
The agreed Conclusions recalled the EU's efforts
to help build the international anti-terrorist coalition, including
the EU-Russia Summit on 3 October and EU Troika visit to Pakistan,
Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt (including talks with the
leaders of the Arab League) on 24-28 September. The EU rejected
any equation of groups of fanatical terrorists with the Arab and
The EU would maintain close contacts with other governments,
including at the ministerial meetings of the Barcelona Process
on 6 November and European Conference on 20 October. The
latter would focus on the fight against terrorism. It would be
attended by all thirteen EU candidates and EFTA countries, as
well as Russia, Ukraine and Moldova as special guests. The GAC
supported plans for an initiative against terrorism at the EU-Africa
ministerial meeting on 11 October and would also pursue its objectives
at the 56th General Assembly of the UN.
The EU would seek to avert a humanitarian tragedy
in Afghanistan and its neighbouring region in co-operation with:
the UNHCR, other UN specialised agencies, ICRC, USA, adjacent
countries and partners in other multilateral organisations. It
would in due course back a political process initiated in Afghanistan
with UN support, and help to rebuild, modernise, develop and open
up that country.
The GAC invited the Commission to contemplate signing
a trade and co-operation agreement with Pakistan and to
step up its consultations with a view to negotiating another with
Iran. The EU would also define measures to strengthen co-operation
with India before the second EU-India Summit. It also called
for proposals to strengthen EU relations with the Central Asian
States, and for a large contribution to the Bishkek Conference
on the fight against terrorism on 13-14 December. The GAC reaffirmed
support for non-proliferation and disarmament, and a desire to
continue the efforts already under way to prevent and stabilise
conflicts in the region.
The EU would promote the signing, ratification and
swift implementation of all international agreements on the fight
against terrorism, as well as conclusion of a new Global Convention
on Terrorism. It would assess its relations with third countries,
in light of the latter's co-operation in the fight against terrorism.
It welcomed the adoption of UNSC Resolution 1373 (2001) and reiterated
the EU's determination to attack all sources of funding for terrorism,
in concert with the USA. It noted the Commission plans to freeze
the assets of the persons identified by the Sanctions Committee
set up under UNSC Resolution 1267.
The GAC would examine the progress made at its next
meeting on 17 October.
Future of Europe
The GAC discussed preparations for a declaration
at the Laeken European Council in December, which would follow
further discussion by EU Heads of State and Government at the
Informal Ghent European Council on 19 October 2001. The GAC confirmed
consensus reached at the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers
at Genval on 4 September, and agreed new elements as regards:
the intention to convene a Convention to
prepare for the next Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in 2004;
participation in the Convention of representatives
of the 15 EU Member States' governments, 30 Member States' national
parliamentarians, 16 European parliamentarians, the Commission,
and as observers, representatives from the Economic and Social
Committee and Committee of the Regions;
the appointment by the Laeken European Council
of a president, assisted by a praesidium composed of at least
one member of each of the component delegations of the Convention,
aided by a secretariat based in the Council Secretariat;
the main aim of the Convention, to elaborate
on the options open to the IGC;
the Convention's timetable: to start work
as soon as possible in the first half of 2002 and last about one
year, followed by a break before the start of the IGC.
The GAC also agreed that the EU candidate countries
would have the full representation of Member States (but have
no participation in decisions); and that the Convention would
draw on representatives of civil society at the European and national
level in a structured network.
The GAC agreed that the Convention should focus on
the themes set out in the Nice Declaration.
The GAC agreed a declaration which called on the
parties to honour their commitments under the cease-fire and to
open a direct dialogue in line with the Mitchell report's recommendations.
It also called on the parties to agree to an impartial surveillance
mechanism to help them overcome their differences and the obstacles
they faced in their efforts to achieve reconciliation. The GAC
welcomed President Bush's declaration acknowledging the right
of Palestinians to a viable state alongside Israel.
Ministers and Commissioner Prodi reviewed developments
over lunch, including on CFSP/ESDP, Cyprus, Turkey's EU accession
process and the constitutional reform package recently adopted
by the Turkish Parliament.
UN Commission on Human Rights
Membership of the UNCHR was discussed over lunch.
Ministers agreed that the Troika should discuss the issue with
the US and report back. Ireland (Cowen) argued strongly that Member
States holding the EU Presidency should always be on the Commission.
The Commission introduced their review of progress
in the enlargement negotiations. One Member State highlighted
the sensitivity of the Temelin nuclear plant in the Czech Republic
and of Transport. The Council took note of the Commission's Information
Note, and asked the Commission to take account of delegations'
comments in their future work.
Secretary General Solana and Commissioner Patten
reported on their visit to Macedonia. The Council were concerned
at delays in ratification of the 13 August Framework Agreement
and agreed that World Bank/EC donors' conference should be postponed
until there was full implementation. There was some discussion
of Kosovo, with the Council welcoming the high number of Serbs
who had registered for the forthcoming Kosovo elections next month.
But much hard work and progress was still required across a range
of problems. Germany and Special Co-ordinator Hombach pointed
to a need for the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe to continue
after Hombach's departure on 31 December. The Presidency and Messrs
Solana and Patten were asked to draw up a paper on its future
for the next GAC.
The Presidency informed partners that the EU-Africa
Ministerial on 11 October would include discussions on: conflict
prevention and resolution, regional co-operation, the environment,
health, food security, cultural property, human rights, external
debt, the Great Lakes (Lusaka and Arusha Processes), the New Africa
Initiative and counter-terrorism.
The Presidency informed the GAC of developments in
the Lusaka (DRC) and Arusha (Burundi) processes. Work on the former
centred on securing contributions for financing the Inter-Congolese
Dialogue, assistance to Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration
(DDR) efforts, and the relocation to Kinshasa of the Joint Military
Committee. On Arusha, work focussed on the provision of aid to
the Facilitator's Office, the establishment of a protection force,
and funding for the return to Burundi of the Arusha Monitoring
Committee. The Presidency hoped to visit Central Africa soon with
the High Representative/Secretary-General Solana and External
Relations Commissioner Patten. The GAC also adopted conclusions.
The GAC reiterated its concern at the situation in
Zimbabwe, especially at the lack of progress made in the five
areas identified by the 25 June GAC. It noted that an EU-Zimbabwe
ministerial meeting was planned to take place shortly. It agreed
to discuss the issues again at the next GAC, on 29 October, with
a view to taking possible additional measures.
The GAC expressed its concern at events in Eritrea
following the arrest of political figures, the suppression of
the independent press and expulsion of the EU Presidency's Representative
to Eritrea. Member States agreed to recall their Heads of Mission
in Eritrea immediately for consultations. The GAC agreed a mandate
for the appropriate authorities in the Council and Commission
to consider further measures the EU could take.
The GAC confirmed the EU's commitment to development,
the fight against poverty, to establish democratic institutions
and the rule of law in Eritrea, as well as for peace, stability
and co-operation in the Horn of Africa. It expressed its wish
for a constructive dialogue on these themes, at the earliest possible
date, with the Eritrean Government.
Core Labour Standards
The Commission presented a Communication, the aim
of which was to reaffirm the EU's commitment to promoting core
labour rights worldwide. At the same time it identified a number
of ways for the EU's external trade policy to take this forward.
The Presidency welcomed the Communication and invited Coreper
to take forward work on its proposals.
The GAC discussed developments and remitted the issue
back to Coreper for further discussion.
The Commission reported on preparations towards a
new Round. Most delegations agreed that Progress was good but
some added that more work was needed to meet EU objectives, especially
on environment, agriculture and labour. The GAC on 29 October
will return to this topic.
FAO Conference and summit
Italy asked for full support for the FAO Conference
and Summit in Italy on 2-10 November 2001. It also asked for all
to contribute to a fund, which the FAO Secretary-General wanted
to set up, to halve by 2015 the number of people living below
ESDP: Danish treaty opt-out (Protocol No. 6 to
the Amsterdam Treaty)
Denmark informed partners on the implementation of
the Danish Defence opt-out during its EU Presidency in 2002. It
would aim to ensure a flexible and practical approach and avoid
impeding the development of ESDP in any way. The Council Legal
Service confirmed its agreement with Denmark's proposed approach,
which was a faithful rendition of the Treaty's obligations.
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,
and to Mr Les Saunders, Cabinet Office European Secretariat.
16 October 2001