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Finnish Presidency (General Affairs and External Relations Council)

Volume 450: debated on Monday 16 October 2006

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 16-17 October in Luxembourg. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs will represent the UK at the Development and Trade Ministers' discussions.

The agenda items are as follows:

Development Ministers

Good governance

The Council will agree Conclusions and discuss a Commission Communication that proposes principles and concrete actions to improve governance in developing countries with a focus on Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries. This includes the provision of €3 billion in funds from the 10th European Development Fund (ACP countries only) whose release will be linked to a Governance Profile assessing partner governments' performance on, and commitment to, governance issues.

Orientation debate: complementarity and division of labour

Development Ministers will agree Conclusions and, as part of the annual "Orientation Debate" on development issues, the Council will debate two aspects of aid effectiveness (complementarity and division of labour) based on questions from the presidency. The questions focus on how donors should organise themselves at the country-level, as well as cross-countries and sectors, to be more effective.

AOB: UN Reform

The UK has asked for reform of the UN development system to be put on the agenda as an AOB item in the context of the forthcoming report of the Secretary General's Panel on UN system-wide coherence.

Migration and Development

Development Ministers will discuss migration informally over dinner, based on questions from the presidency covering the links between migration and development and follow-up to the UN High Level Dialogue on migration in September.

Aid for Trade

The Council will agree Conclusions on Aid for Trade and, in a joint session, Trade and Development Ministers will debate questions from the Presidency. These questions will focus on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), Aid for Trade, and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

Joint session for Development and Foreign Ministers

Orientation debate on policy coherence for development and effectiveness of EU external action.

The Council will adopt Conclusions on integrating development concerns into Council decision-making. As part of the annual "Orientation Debate" on development issues the Council will debate policy coherence for development in the context of effectiveness of EU external action.

The EU strategy for Africa

The Council will review progress in implementing the EU Africa Strategy, agreed under the UK's presidency in 2005. This is an interim debate in advance of further discussion at the December Council with Conclusions expected to be agreed then and at the December European Council.

Session for Foreign Ministers

General Affairs

Enlargement

The Council will discuss Romania and Bulgaria's accession and agree Conclusions welcoming their accession in 2007.

External Relations

Sudan

We will want the Council to give a strong and consistent message to President Bashir of Sudan, calling for a cease-fire, full humanitarian access, UN deployment/support for the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) until the UN can take over and implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. Funding of the AU Mission is another important issue, following its extension until the end of the year. The EU has agreed to continue support in coordination with the UN and other actors.

Zimbabwe

The Council will exchange views on the deteriorating of the situation in Zimbabwe at Malta's request.

Middle East Peace Process

The Council is likely to focus on President Abbas' efforts to form a Government of National Unity and the recent clashes between Fatah and Hamas. The UK will raise the need for effective plans to strengthen Palestinian institutions.

Western Balkans

The Council will discuss Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. On Serbia our assessment remains that Belgrade has not yet done enough to demonstrate compliance with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to warrant restarting the Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks. On Bosnia the Council is expected to welcome the smooth conduct of elections as well as urging the need for progress on reform.

On Kosovo, the Council is expected to restate its support for the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, in his conduct of the political process to determine Kosovo's future status.

Iran

The High Representative for the Common and Security Policy, Javier Solana, will brief the Council on his recent contacts with the Secretary General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Dr Ali Larijani. Solana reported to the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, UK China, Russia and US on 6 October that Iran was not prepared to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, as required by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 1696. This is deeply disappointing. In Resolution 1696, the Security Council expressed its intention to adopt measures under Article 41 of the UN Charter if Iran did not comply.

Georgia

The presidency is expected to report back on its recent visit to Georgia (part of a Troika visit to the South Caucasus region, related to agreement of European Neighbourhood Action Plans in each South Caucasus country). This is likely to be followed by a discussion on the recent escalation in tension in Georgian/Russian relations.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)

The Council will discuss the EU's reactions to the announcement by the DPRK of a nuclear test. Developments in New York will influence the context of discussions.

AOB: EU-Ukraine Summit

Ukraine will be discussed under AOB at Polish request. It is likely that the Council will agree the need for the EU-Ukraine Summit to give a clear signal of support for ongoing reform in Ukraine.