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Council Of Foreign Ministers

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1980

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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 18 March.

My right hon. and noble Friend, accompanied by my hon. Friend, the Minister for Trade, represented the United Kingdom at this Council.In their discussion of preparations for the European Council Ministers briefly exchanged views on the United Kingdom budget contribution problem. My right hon. and noble Friend stressed that this would be the major item for discussion by Heads of Government and that it was in the overall interests of the Community to settle it now. He further emphasised that the solution must be durable to prevent the Community from having to come back to the problem. There should be a better balance of Community policies with agricultural expenditure brought under control.Energy matters were also raised in this context. The Commission will circulate, prior to the European Council, a paper focusing particularly on the need to harmonise pricing and taxation of energy in the Community, and stressing the need for an adequately funded Community energy strategy. No immediate decisions by the Council on the paper would be expected.It was agreed at German initiative that the Commission should study further and report again to the Council on its decisions to authorise safeguard action on imports of synthetic textiles as well as on Community procedures for dealing with GATT Article XIX cases. My hon. Friend accepted that it would be useful to see whether there was scope for improvements in procedure. But, together with the Commission, he emphasised that further study would confirm that the imposition of quotas on United Kingdom imports was fully justified.

Commissioner Davignon reported on his recent consultations with the United States Administration on the possibility that the United States steel industry will initiate anti-dumping action against Community exports. He had stressed that the Community would expect the United States to respect the OECD consensus that measures to assist restructuring should not interfere with traditional trade flows.

Member States agreed to contribute a total of an additional 28 million eua to supplement the 1980 ECSC budget in view, in particular, of the problems facing the steel industry. They will review the position in the autumn in case further finance is needed to meet the ECSC's commitments for 1980.

The Council was unable to agree that the Community should respond to requests from Brazil and South Africa for voluntary restraint arrangements on their exports of certain steel products. The United Kingdom made clear its view that this was an unsatisfactory outcome. The question was remitted to the Steel Liaison Committee.

The Council approved early signature of the Co-operation Agreement with Yugoslavia. This will now be signed in Belgrade on 2 April.

Ministers were unable to reach agreement on a tariff reduction on oranges imported from Israel. It was agreed that the Community should make a declaration acknowledging Israeli concern and undertaking that this issue will be dealt with in the context of the enlargement negotiations.

On co-operation with the Gulf States it was agreed, in the light of the Presidency's report on initial reactions, that exploratory contacts should be pursued.

Guidelines were agreed for the Community's common position on the preparatory work in the United Nations Committee of the Whole for the global negotiations on North/South issues which are expected to be launched by the General Assembly special session later in the year. The negotiations for a cocoa agreement were also briefly discussed and the matter was referred back to officials for further consideration.

The request from the Court of Justice for an additional Advocate General was discussed but no decision was taken.