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Foreign Affairs Council

Volume 22: debated on Wednesday 28 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council on 26 and 27 April.

The Foreign Affairs Council met in Luxembourg on 26 to 27 April. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State represented the United Kingdom on 26 April and my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Trade was present for part of that day's discussions. I was our representative on 27 April.On 26 April the Council covered a wide range of subjects. On the external side Ministers agreed to a food aid programme for 1982 consisting of 927,663 tonnes of cereals, 150,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder and 45,000 tonnes of butter oil. They prepared the Community's position for the ACP-EC Joint Council of Ministers on 13 to 14 May.In considering the negotiations towards Portuguese accession the Council agreed Community position papers on certain aspects of customs union, coal and steel and rights of establishment. These were presented to the Portuguese at a ministerial level meeting on 27 April. The Council also agreed on negotiating directives for the negotiation of a new protocol to the 1972 EC-Portugal Agreement.The Commission presented a communication on textile imports from preferential suppliers. The Council noted the conclusion by the Commission of new voluntary restraint arrangements with Egypt—for cotton yarn—and Spain; and instructed the Commission to continue negotiations with Cyprus, Malta, Morocco, Portugal and Tunisia. The Council decided that the Moroccan, Portuguese and Tunisian authorities should be informed of the import levels which will be applied by the Community in the absence of voluntary arrangements; and that imports licensing should be introduced for certain textile and clothing products from Morocco and Tunisia. The Council also discussed a proposal from the Commission for a voluntary restraint arrangement covering cotton yarn from Turkey and remitted this to officials for further consideration.The Council failed to reach agreement on proposals for the simplification of the rules of origin requirements for EC-EFTA trade and on a proposal to open a duty-free quota for imports of two grades of ferro-chrome. These items will be referred to the Industry Council.One of the internal matters to come before the Council was the proposal for a new regulation for the European regional development fund. Ministers agreed that the new regulation should reflect the principle of concentration of resources on the areas of greatest need. They also reached broad agreement on the desirability of co-ordination of Community and national regional policies.The Council also had a brief first discussion of the European Parliament's proposals for a uniform electoral system for future elections to the Parliament. My right hon. Friend made it clear that our consideration of the proposals was at a very early stage and that he was not in a position to comment in substance. It was agreed that the Committee of Permanent Representatives would undertake a detailed examination of the proposals and report back to the Council in due course.M. Tindemans, the President of the Council, reported the outcome of a meeting on 21 April with his counterparts from the Commission and European Parliament, at which they discussed how to resolve the differences between the three institutions over budgetary procedure. He said that some progress had been made, and a further meeting is planned for the end of May. The Council negotiating mandate for that meeting will be prepared by the Budget Council on 11 May.The second day of the Council was devoted to discussion of the 30 May mandate. I impressed on our partners the need for a settlement which was fair for both Britain and the Community, and we agreed that we should intensify our efforts to find a solution. There will be further contacts with the Presidency and Commission in preparation for a further discussion by Foreign Ministers in the near future.At lunch I also brought my colleagues up to date on the Falklands. They expressed their unanimous solidarity with the United Kingdom.We also discussed the situation in the Middle East and made a joint statement welcoming Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. I shall arrange for this to be placed in the Library of the House as soon as possible.