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General Affairs and External Relations Council

Volume 461: debated on Friday 15 June 2007

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 17-18 June in Luxembourg, My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will represent the UK.

The agenda items are as follows:

General Affairs

Treaty Reform Process

The Council is expected to discuss the Presidency's report on the state of discussions on EU institutional reform, including the issues raised during consultations with Member States. The Government believe that the way forward should be on the basis of an amending rather than a constitutional Treaty.

Preparation of the European Council

The Council is expected to look ahead to the European Council on 21 -22 June, at which we expect Treaty Reform to be the main item.

Global Approach to Migration

The Council is expected to adopt Conclusions on the basis of a Commission Communication on extending the global approach to migration to the east and south-east of the EU, and on circular migration and mobility packages.

External Relations

Doha Development Round

The Commission is expected to brief the Council on preparations for the meeting of the G4 (EU, US, Brazil and India) on 19-23 June in Potsdam. Discussion at the Council is likely to focus on the importance of a balanced deal, and the role of the G4 Members and the Commission in the process. The Government wants to see an ambitious, pro-development outcome to the World Trade Organisation Round.

European Neighbourhood Policy

The Council is expected to adopt Conclusions on the European Neighbourhood Policy acknowledging and building on the Presidency Progress Report. The Government support a strengthened ENP offering improved incentives to reform and a Neighbourhood Investment Fund that improves the effectiveness of financial assistance in the Neighbourhood.

Central Asia Strategy

The Presidency is expected to present its strategy for the development of EU relations with Central Asia, which the Government support.

Western Balkans

The Council is expected to discuss Serbia and Kosovo. The Council is also likely to adopt Conclusions on Serbia and Schengen visa facilitation. The Government support Enlargement Commissioner Rehn's decision to restart negotiations with Serbia on its Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) on the basis that full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia will remain a requirement for SAA conclusion.

Middle East Peace Process

The Council is expected to discuss the forthcoming Quartet meetings at the end of June with the parties and the Arab League; the continuing insecurity in Gaza; and the political situation in Israel following the Labour Party Primaries on 12 June. The Council may also discuss economic development and capacity building. The Government believe the EU must continue to play a role in support of the political horizon talks between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, including through building Palestinian institutional capacity.

The Council is expected to adopt Conclusions on the situation in Nahr Al-Bared, which has seen a series of violent clashes between the Lebanese Army and the Sunni extremist group, Fatah Al-Islam. The Conclusions underline support for the Lebanese Government's efforts to bring the situation under control, condemn Fatah Al-Islam and stress the need to respect humanitarian needs.

Arab League Initiative

The Presidency has proposed an EU troika meeting at senior official level with representatives from the Arab League. The Government support this proposal in so far as it does not duplicate existing EU structures for dialogue with Middle East partners, for example the EuroMed Partnership.

Iran

The High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, is expected to brief the Council on his recent discussions with Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. The Council is also expected to adopt Conclusions.

Sudan

The Council is expected to discuss the importance of securing Sudanese acceptance for the third phase of the UN support for the African Union peacekeeping force, a hybrid African Union/UN force and to consider possible next steps. The Government believe the EU has an important role to play in maintaining pressure on the parties, supporting the UN and African Union, and in financing the African Union Mission in Sudan until a UN force arrives.

Death Penalty Initiative

The Presidency is expected to brief partners on its proposal for the Council to endorse a decision in principle for the EU to introduce an anti-death penalty resolution at a forthcoming session of the UN General Assembly. The Government support this approach on the basis that any proposal will be carefully planned to ensure the best chance of success.

Libya

External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, is expected to update the Council on progress towards securing the release of the Bulgarian and Palestinian medical staff imprisoned in Libya, including her visit to Libya with Foreign Minister Steinmeier on 10 - 11 June.