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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The General Affairs Council met in Brussels on 25 May. The Council adopted the A Points, and noted the European Parliament Resolutions of 29-30 April and 2 May listed in Document 8115/98. A copy will be placed in the House Library as soon as it becomes available.
The Foreign Secretary provided a Presidency progress report on Agenda 2000 negotiations. Foreign Ministers set out their positions on a wide range of issues. The GAC agreed the proposed outline of the structure for a draft report to Cardiff. Foreign Ministers also agreed that COREPER should report back to the next GAC on how to respond to the latest letter from EP President Gil-Robles about European Parliament involvement.
The Council reached agreement on the text of the EU Code of Conduct for arms exports, which will be formally adopted at a future Council meeting. The code aims to set high common standards for arms exports from all EU member states. It develops the EU Common Criteria agreed in 1991 and 1992 and includes a mechanism under which a member state will have to consult a Partner which has denied a licence for a particular export, before granting an essentially identical licence.
The Council took note of the reports of the EU/US and EU/Canada Summits. It agreed that the EU/US Summit, which made substantial progress towards resolving the problems of US sanctions legislation and endorsed the Transatlantic Economic Partnership, represented an important step.
The Council underlined EU support for Indonesia, called on President Habibie to continue political reform, welcomed the release of two political prisoners and called on the Indonesian authorities to co-operate constructively with the efforts under the auspices of the UN Secretary General on East Timor.
The Council discussed preparations for the ad hoc meeting of Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers in Palermo on 3-4 June. This should give renewed impetus to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and prepare the ground for the third Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference in Stuttgart in April 1999. The Council endorsed the Presidency's handling, and reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring that the meeting is a success.
The Council heard a report from Mr. Felipe Gonzalez, the EU and OSCE Special Representative for the FRY. It noted with concern recent developments in the FRY affecting the freedom of the media. It welcomed the opening of a dialogue between Belgrade and the leadership of the Kosovar Albanian community, while expressing grave concern about the escalating violence in the province. It underlined the need for the parliamentary elections in Montenegro on 31 May to be free and fair and for their results to be respected by all.
The Council agreed to consider on 29 June whether Croatia should continue to benefit from Autonomous Trade Measures in the light of that country's performance on refugee returns and other important issues such as democratisation and independent media.
(a) nuclear weapons newly developed by the United States which did not require testing; and (b) the United States Presidential Decision Directive of last autumn concerning United States future use of nuclear weapons.[HL1958]
The US has briefed Allies in broad terms on its new Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) on US nuclear doctrine. The PDD revises nuclear targeting guidelines and doctrine, with the latter now focused exclusively on nuclear deterrence. The new directive formally abandons the notion that the US could fight and win a protracted nuclear exchange.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We restrict the export to Taiwan of licensable defence-related equipment. Applications for export licences to supply defence-related equipment and technology are considered case by case. All decisions are made in the light of the criteria announced on 28 July by the Foreign Secretary (Official Report, columns, 26-29). In scrutinising applications for Taiwan, we also give particular weight to the implications for regional stability.
Following discussion with this department and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved a licence for the export of mine-clearance suits for use by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan in its demining operations. The grant of this licence is for humanitarian purposes, and is consistent with the purpose of the embargo.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government have given thorough consideration to the merits of the United Kingdom becoming a signatory of the charter, which entered into force on 1 March 1998. We have concluded that it would be appropriate to do so. Part II of the charter sets out general principles of recognition and support for indigenous minority languages and removal of discrimination against them. We readily subscribe to these principles. We also intend to specify the Welsh language in Wales and, when the necessary procedural arrangements are in place, the Gaelic language in Scotland under the provisions of Part III, which require adherence to a number of specific measures taken to promote the use of these languages in public life. It is also intended to specify the Irish language in Northern Ireland at at early date. Part II of the charter will apply to the Scots language. We will be considering which, if any, other languages should be bound by the general principles in Part II and might be specified under Part III in due course.
Lord Hoyle: The establishment of the Joint Services' Command and Staff College at its interim site at Bracknell has highlighted the considerable benefits to be had from a joint approach to command and staff training within a multinational environment. Opportunities for the common understanding of warfare and defence as a whole are maximised. Specially selected officers have their command, analytical and communication skills tested against challenging scenarios ranging from peace support operations to modern warfare. As part of our commitment to joint training, the Ministry of Defence has signed a PFI contract with Defence Management (Watchfield) Limited to build a new Joint College at Shrivenham (Watchfield) and to provide a range of facility management services. The new college is scheduled to open in September 2000.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The National Blood Authority has no functions in relation to Scotland. However, we expect there to be appropriate liaison between all the United Kingdom blood services to ensure the best possible care for patients.
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