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General Affairs and External Relations Council

Volume 447: debated on Friday 16 June 2006

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, Sir John Grant (UK Permanent Representative to the EU) and I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Luxembourg on 12 June.

The agenda items covered were as follows:

General Affairs

Preparation of the European Council on 15-16 June: Draft Conclusions

The Council discussed the draft European Council conclusions. The main issues include enlargement, energy, sustainable development and migration.

A revised version of the draft conclusions will be presented to the European Council on 16 June.

The European Council is also expected to issue declarations on the Middle East Peace Process, Africa, the Western Balkans, Iraq, Lebanon and Iran.


The Council agreed a common position on the science and research chapters of Turkey and Croatia's accession negotiations, held in the margins of the meeting.


The presidency noted that Foreign Ministers would discuss this subject over dinner at the European Council.

European Agency for Fundamental Rights

The Council took note of the draft regulation to establish an EU agency for fundamental rights before forwarding it to COREPER (Committee of Permanent Representatives) with a view to reaching agreement as soon as possible.

External Relations

World Trade Organisation/Doha Development Round

Commissioner Mandelson briefed the Council on the state of negotiations.

The Council agreed procedural conclusions noting that it would meet in special session as necessary at ministerial level in Geneva, to take stock of developments during the negotiations.

Gulf Co-operation Council Free Trade Agreement

Commissioner Mandelson briefed the Council on recent meetings with Gulf Co-operation Council Ministers.

Western Balkans

The Council agreed conclusions: reiterating the need for full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; recognising the decision of the Montenegrin and Serbian parliaments following the referendum on Montenegro's independence; and noting that the partners would recognise Montenegro in accordance with their national practice. The Council also adopted conclusions on the EU's military and policing operations in Bosnia.

In the margins of the Council, partners signed a stabilisation and association agreement with Albania.

The European Council is also expected to adopt a declaration on the Western Balkans.

EU/US Summit

The presidency updated the Council on preparations for the EU-US summit to be held in Vienna on 21 June. Areas for possible cooperation include: promoting peace, democracy and human rights in the world; confronting global challenges, including security; fostering prosperity and opportunity; and promoting cooperation on energy and energy security.


The Council agreed conclusions deploring the deterioration of the human rights situation and reaffirming the common position.


High Representative Solana briefed the Council on the E3+3 Foreign Ministers meeting in Vienna on 1 June, and HR Solana’s subsequent visit to Tehran.

The European Council is expected to adopt a declaration on Iran.

Middle East Peace Process

High Representative Solana briefed the Council on his recent visit.

External Relations Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner updated the Council on the preparations for the establishment of a temporary international mechanism to support Palestinian basic needs.

The European Council is expected to adopt a declaration on the Middle East Peace Process.


The Council together with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari discussed measures to enhance EU-Iraq relations and the situation in Iraq following the formation of a Government of national unity on 20 May.

The Council also adopted a joint action extending the mandate of the EUJUSTLEX Mission for Iraq under the European security and defence policy.

The European Council is expected to adopt a declaration on Iraq.

GAERC Conclusions:


The Council adopted conclusions on Sudan reiterating its commitment to the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, including through continuing to provide technical and financial support to the African Union Mission in Sudan and recalled its support for sanctions against those blocking the peace process, as set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (2005).


The Council adopted conclusions expressing its commitment to contribute to put an end to the unacceptable activities of the Lords Resistance Army in Northern Uganda, as well as to assist in efforts to improve the humanitarian situation. The conclusions also called on the Ugandan Government to work actively for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.


The Council adopted conclusions expressing concern at the violence between armed groups in Mogadishu, which poses a serious threat to the democratic process.

Cote d'Ivoire

The Council adopted conclusions calling on the parties to take urgently all the necessary measures for the implementation of the process of disarmament and identification.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The Council adopted conclusions expressing continued support to the process of political transition, particularly through the deployment of the military operation EUFOR RD Congo. The conclusions also called on all the political parties to pursue the path of peaceful and democratic change in the lead up to the elections.

The European Council is also expected to adopt conclusions on Africa.

Human Rights Defenders

The Council adopted conclusions paying tribute to the courage of human rights defenders, expressing admiration for their contribution to the advancement of the respect for human rights and welcoming the review of the implementation of the EU guidelines on human rights defenders.


The Dutch Foreign Minister, Bernard Bot, called for support for possible UN Security Council action on Burma.

East Timor—AOB

The Portuguese Foreign Minister, Freitas do Amaral, briefed the Council on the deployment of Portuguese gendarmes. He also called for the support of possible UN Security Council initiatives in light of an assessment to be presented by UN Special Representative Ian Martin on 13 June.

International Facility for the Purchase of Medicine—AOB

French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, briefed the Council on the proposal for an international facility for the purchase of medicines. He called for support for the initiative to improve access to medicines for the developing world.