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Eu General Affairs Council

Volume 301: debated on Thursday 27 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will report on the outcome of the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 24 and 25 November. [18542]

At the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 24–25 November, the nine A points in document 12483/97 were approved, and the European Parliament resolutions of 5–6 November in document 11487/97 were noted. The texts of both documents will be placed in the libraries of the House as soon as they become available.

Agenda 2000

Ministers held their first discussion of the report to the Luxembourg European Council in December on Agenda 2000. Ministers re-stated their positions on enlargement (with the majority still in favour of differentiation), future financing and policy reform. Discussion will continue, and we hope substantial progress will be made at the next meeting of the Council on 8 December.

Turkey

The Council discussed Turkey's participation in the European Conference and the Commission's proposals for strengthening relations with Turkey by building on the Customs Union. Most Member States expressed support in principle for both.

EC/Israel Trade Issues

The Council agreed that the EC/Israel Co-operation Committee with Israel on 28 November should address the issue of miscertification of goods from third countries under the EC/Israel Interim Association Agreement, notably orange juice.

Transatlantic relations

The Council took note of the preparations for the EU/US and EU/Canada Summits which will take place in Washington and Ottawa in December and agreed that the EU should agree a statement of general principles governing electronic commerce with the US. The Council also encouraged the Commission to continue its efforts to negotiate with the US an agreement to ban leg-hold traps.

Former Yugoslavia

The High Representative, Carlos Westendorp, briefed the Council on progress in peace implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Council also discussed the situation in the FRY in light of forthcoming Presidential elections in Serbia, expressing its concern at the authorities' failure to respect fundamental democratic principles.

Switzerland

The Council reiterated its wish to conclude bilateral sectoral negotiations with Switzerland but highlighted the outstanding problems in certain areas, including transport. The Council instructed COREPER to reconsider proposals to resolve this issue and called on the Swiss to exercise some flexibility in pursuit of their common objective.

Mid term review of Overseas Countries and Territories Decision

The mid-term review of the Decision on the association of Overseas Countries and Territories with the EU was formally agreed.

MEPP

Following discussions at the Foreign Ministers' dinner in the margins of the Special European Council on Employment on 20 November, the Council discussed developments in the Middle East peace process following the visit to the region by the President of the Council and Vice President Marin of the European Commission from 11–14 November. The Council confirmed the importance of close co-ordination with the US Administration, and that the Middle East peace process would be discussed at the 5 December EU/US Summit. The Council also reviewed the importance of EU aid to the Palestinians, and took note of the Commission's forthcoming communication on the programme.

Russia: Preparation for first Co-operation Council

The Council emphasised the importance that the EU attaches to EU-Russia relations. In light of this, the Presidency asked Ministers to confirm whether they would be able to attend the inaugural Co-operation Council under the terms of the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) on 15 December (Primakov being unable to attend on 8 December as originally planned). If this is not possible, the Co-operation Council will fall to the UK Presidency. Preparations in the meantime would continue in COREPER.

EU-Jordan

The Association Agreement between the EU and Jordan was signed on 24 November by EU Foreign Ministers, the Commission and Crown Prince Hassan.

Yemen

The EC/Yemen agreement was signed on 25 November by the Commission and the Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister.

Afghanistan

The Council exchanged views on the conflict in Afghanistan and took note of the Conference of donors which will take place in New York on 3 December. The Council confirmed that the UN has the principal role and expressed its support for the efforts of the UN Secretary General and his special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

European Economic Area Council

The 8th Council of the European Economic Area (EEA) was held on 25 November. Ministers welcomed the continued development of the EEA. Conclusions were agreed which took stock of developments and looked forward to future work (Commission Press Release EEE 1608/97 Presse 368).

£000s

DoE

DoT

VI

HA

DVLA

DSA

VCA

MSA

CA

PI

QE2

1993–9412,2278,275181,88258nilnilnil209
1994–959,0288,03921n/a1,80753nil104241nil167
1995–967,6708,356405462,1716786329716167
1996–974,6659,679551,1001,9666397931117180

£000s

DETR

VI

HA

DVLA

DSA

VCA

MSA

CA

PI

QE2

1997–98 to date4,574585461,21946nil652141752
1997–98 full year estimated outturn13,7251111,3003,584111510028017196
DoE—Department of the Environment DoT—Department of Transport
DETR—Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
VI—Vehicle Inspectorate
HA—Highways Agency
DVLA—Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
DSA—Driving Standards Agency
VCA—Vehicle Certification Agency
MSA—Marine Safety Agency
CA—Coastguard Agency
PI—Planning Inspectorate
QE2—Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre