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Foreign Affairs Council

Volume 974: debated on Wednesday 21 November 1979

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council held on 20 November.

My right hon. and noble Friend represented the United Kingdom at the Foreign Affairs Council on 20 November. He was accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade, my hon. Friend, the Minister of State, Department of Industry, my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Butler) and myself.The Council discussed preparations for the European Council in Dublin on 29 and 30 November. It was agreed that adequate time would be devoted to the problem of the United Kingdom's net contribution to the Community budget. In this context, my right hon. and noble Friend emphasised the need for setting out the issues clearly so that the European Council could reach a decision. The Council also agreed that a number of other topics would be discussed in Dublin. These included the report of the three wise men on Community institutions, the economic and social situation and energy questions.Ministers reached agreement on internal procedures necessary for implementation of the new Lomé convention, particularly as regards the financing and administration of its aid provisions.It was agreed that the Community should formally conclude the multilateral trade negotiations. It was also agreed that the tariff protocol for European Coal and Steel Community products and the agreements on civil aircraft and standards should be signed by member States on their own behalf as well as by the EEC Commission acting on behalf of the Community as a whole.There was agreement that the Community will open formal consultations with the United States authorities under article XXIII of the GATT on the recent rapid increase in exports of United States synthetic fibres to the Community.The Community's generalised scheme of preferences for 1980 was approved.Directives were agreed to enable the Commission to open negotiations with Greece for the prolongation throughout 1980 of the restraint arrangement for Greek textile exports.The Council was unable to agree on the terms of the Community's offer to Cyprus for interim trading arrangements to cover the period between the end of the year and negotiation for definitive arrangements for stage 2 of the EEC-Cyprus Association Agreement. The main difficulty is over whether the concession on Cyprus new potatoes should be linked, as in 1978 and 1979, to progress on an internal Community potato regime. There was agreement, however, that the interim arrangements should last for only one year.Subject to a reserve from one member State, the Council agreed that the Commission should announce at the meeting of the Food Aid Committee in London on 29 and 30 November that the Community was willing to increase its food aid under the food aid convention to the figure of 1·65 million tonnes for the year 1980–81.Ministers held a general discussion on the Commission's proposals for internal measures and external arrangements to combat the crisis in the iron and steel industry in 1980.There was further discussion of the Commission's scheme to promote the scrapping and building of ocean-going ships. The Commission will now arrange for an expert working group to meet, and based on its conclusions, may recommend to a forthcoming Council a specific scheme.Procedures for handling European Parliament resolutions were considered with a view to ensuring that they work as efficiently as possible. Officials will be considering the question further.There was discussion of the directive on qualifications for midwives but no agreement was reached.