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Foreign Affairs Council

Volume 229: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council held on 19 and 20 July.

I attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 19 July with the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade.In a debate in open session on the presidency's programme, EC colleagues echoed my emphasis on the need to pursue the Edinburgh and Copenhagen initiatives to increase growth, jobs and competitiveness.The Council adopted six new regulations governing the structural funds. Agreement was also reached on financial allocations for member states' objective 1 regions. The United Kingdom will receive 2·43 becu for the period 1994–99 for its objective 1 regions—Northern Ireland, the highlands and islands of Scotland and Merseyside.The Council discussed the Commission's draft directive to extend the franchise for European parliamentary elections. Several member states, including the United Kingdom, criticised the draft for being too detailed. The presidency recommended a light directive for the 1994 elections. A revised text will be considered by the October FAC.The Presidency updated the Council on its discussions with the European Parliament on a new inter-institutional agreement on budget discipline to implement the Edinburgh financial perspective.Over lunch, Lord Owen briefed Ministers on the latest situation on the ground in ex-Yugoslavia, and on the co-chairmen's continued efforts to identify proposals for a settlement that all three parties could accept. Ministers agreed that the presidency should visit the region as soon as possible in July to underline the EC's support for the co-chairmen. Serbia would be told that their present position remained unacceptable and that sanctions would be maintained, Croatia would be warned that the EC was seriously considering withdrawing Croatia's preferential EC trade access and the Muslims would be encouraged to negotiate. Ministers emphasised the importance of the rigorous implementation of sanctions and the maintenance of humanitarian aid.Ministers set preparations in hand for consideration of the French proposal for a stability pact with central and eastern Europe. They also briefly discussed recent events in Somalia.

The Commission presented its opinions on the applications of Malta and Cyprus to join the Community. The Council welcomed the Commission's positive messages on Maltese and Cypriot eligibility and European vocation, and asked COREPER to examine the opinions so as to enable the FAC to take a position on the Commission's recommendations at its next meeting in October.

The Council briefly discussed a draft regulation on the control of exports of certain dual-use goods and technologies, and asked COREPER to prepare for further discussion in October.

The Commission reported on the GATT Uruguay round negotiations. The Council welcomed the progress at the Tokyo summit and the resumption of multilateral negotiations in Geneva. At France's request, the presidency will examine the possibility of a joint Council of Foreign Affairs and Agriculture Ministers in September to consider the agricultural aspects of the negotiations. The Council also discussed the anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed by the United States on imports of EC steel. The Commission will determine what further action should be taken in the light of the International Trade Commission's findings which will be announced on 27 July.

The Council agreed to the conclusion of an EC trade and co-operation agreement, financial protocol and transport agreement with Slovenia.

The Council adopted measures to implement decisions of the 21 to 22 June Copenhagen European Council accelerating trade access to Community markets for the central European associate countries—Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia. The Council also adopted a new regulation to extend the provision of EC technical assistance to the former Soviet Union until the end of 1995.

The Council discussed a Commission proposal to increase Stabex expenditure for 1993, a proposal which the United Kingdom could not accept. The Council asked COREPEPER to consider the issue further.

The presidency and the Commission reported to the Council on the 7 to 9 July G7 summit in Tokyo, and on the 6 July EC/Japan summit.

An EC-Tunisia Co-operation Council was held in the margins, and Ministers discussed European parliamentary commission issues, including events in the former Yugoslavia, with the Tunisian Foreign Minister over dinner. No formal votes were taken.