Skip to main content

General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC), 23 July 2007

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 19 July 2007

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 23 July in Brussels. 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

4th Cohesion Report

Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Hübner, is expected to brief the Council on the 4th Cohesion report, which provides an update on economic, social and territorial cohesion. It also provides an analysis of the impact of cohesion policy at national and Community level in the EU. The report also asks a series of questions to guide discussion: can cohesion policy can adapt to the new challenges facing regions in the coming years; can it further develop an integrated and more flexible approach to development/growth and jobs; and how adequate is the policy management system for 2007-13? The Government welcome these questions as a basis for debate, providing the discussion does not prejudge the fundamental review of the EU’s budget taking place in 2008-09.

External Relations

Doha Development Round

Commissioner for Trade, Peter Mandelson, is expected to brief the Council on the latest negotiations in the Doha development round. The Council is expected to discuss next steps including work to be taken forward by the chairs of the groups on agriculture and non-agricultural market access. The Government want an ambitious, pro-development outcome to the Doha development round and supports the role of the Commission.

Ukraine

The Council will be briefed by the presidency on preparations for the EU-Ukraine summit on 14 September. The Council is also expected to endorse a note, which the Government fully support, setting out the EU’s objectives for the summit, which include taking stock of developments in the EU-Ukraine relationship, and discussing the ongoing process of reform in Ukraine.

Sudan/Darfur

We expect discussion at the Council to focus on options for EU engagement in Darfur and the region, including a range of areas in which the EU could support wider international efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis. The Government welcome these options, which set out ways in which the EU can support the political process in Darfur, improvements in the humanitarian and security situations, as well as effective African Union and UN peacekeeping in the region.

The Government will emphasise the importance of keeping the focus on the long-term economic future, development and reconstruction of Darfur and Sudan as a whole. The international community, including the EU, must provide the necessary planning and support to make this happen.

The Council is also expected to discuss a French proposal for an EU military operation in Chad. The UK has long supported, including through UN Security Council Resolution 1706, the need for an international operation in Eastern Chad. An effective military force would be an important contribution to the regional strategy and the Government therefore welcome the French proposal.

Libya

External Relations Commissioner, Benita Fererro-Waldner, is expected to update the Council on progress in the case of the Bulgarian and Palestinian medical staff imprisoned in Libya.

Iran

The High-Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, is expected to brief the Council on his recent discussions with AH Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, as part of the EU’s agreed twin track approach. The Government welcome steps by Iran to resolve outstanding technical issues with the international atomic energy agency, but our position remains firm on the need to see full suspension, before suspension of UN sanctions can be considered.

Middle East

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the Middle East emphasising support for Abbas and Fayyad’s Government. The Council is likely to discuss support for building the capacity of Palestinian institutions and economic development, a position the Government support as an essential part of achieving success in political negotiations.

On Lebanon, the Council is expected to adopt conclusions condemning the bomb attack on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on 23 June in which six peacekeepers were killed, and reiterating the need to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1701 and 1757. The conclusions also welcome the meeting held by France to build confidence between the main parties and help work towards a reconciliation of the political crisis in Lebanon.

Western Balkans

Discussion is likely to focus on Kosovo. The Government will want to ensure EU resolve in seeing former President Ahtisaari’s proposals through to a successful conclusion.

Russia

The Government will brief the Council on latest developments in the Litvinenko case.

Zimbabwe

The Government will raise Zimbabwe to highlight the need for continued EU engagement in response to the deteriorating situation.

Resolution 1562 of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly

The Dutch have asked to discuss rendition, following a recent Council of Europe report.