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General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council

Volume 504: debated on Thursday 21 January 2010

The General Affairs Council (GAC) and Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) have replaced the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) under the provisions of the Lisbon treaty, which came into force on 1 December 2009. The GAC and FAC will be held on 25 January in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I will represent the UK.

The agenda items are as follows:

General Affairs Council

Spanish presidency programme

The Spanish presidency will present its programme and priorities. Supporting Europe’s economic recovery, in particular through developing the new EU strategy for jobs and growth (EU 2020), will be a high priority for Spain. The presidency will also focus on the international stage, with a number of full EU summits, and preparation for the UN millennium development goals summit in September. We look to Spain to provide continued EU leadership on climate change and implementing the Copenhagen accord. Finally, Spain will focus on the rights of EU citizens by implementing the Stockholm programme on Justice and Home Affairs and continue work on implementing the Lisbon treaty.

We look forward to working with our Spanish colleagues on such a broad agenda and welcome in particular Spain’s focus on economic recovery with a low carbon, social agenda at its core. The EU 2020 strategy will be vital to improving Europe’s global competitiveness and we will work to ensure the strategy is ambitious and innovative.

Foreign Affairs Council


Ministers will discuss recent developments on the nuclear dossier. Ministers may consider the way forward in the context of the dual track policy, in order to persuade Iran to enter into meaningful negotiations. They will also continue to play close attention to the human rights situation inside Iran.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ministers are likely to consider further the future of EUFOR operation Althea, following a decision at the December FAC to revert to this issue in January. The Government believe that EUFOR makes a vital contribution to stability and security in BiH and should therefore only be reconfigured when the time is right. Ministers will also discuss the broader political situation in BiH. The Government will underline the importance of giving strong support to the High Representative/EU Special Representative in BiH. The Government continue to support the EU/US initiative and to believe that the conditionality set by the Peace Implementation Council must be met before the Office of the High Representative can close.


Ministers will discuss a possible CSDP mission to train security forces in Somalia, and may also consider whether to agree to the legal basis for this mission.


Discussion is likely to focus on the London conference on 28 January and on how to strengthen the EU’s engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2010. This might include restructuring the architecture of the EU contribution in Afghanistan, pushing forward the implementation of the EU action plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan, agreed at the October European Council, and cementing plans for a second EU-Pakistan summit, to be held during the Spanish presidency.


Ministers will discuss the situation in Yemen. In particular they may focus on how to build on the EU’s response to date, following on from conclusions at the October GAERC, including the need for urgent political and economic reform to address Yemen’s challenges. The UK will also brief on plans for the meeting on Yemen in London on 27 January.


Ministers may discuss the latest developments, including the first round of the presidential elections held on 17 January. We welcome the fact that the elections have taken place under calm conditions and will continue to urge the contenders in the second round to rely on the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to ensure as trouble-free and conclusive an election as possible. We believe that whoever wins the elections will pursue Ukraine’s progress towards European integration. Their challenge will be to make Ukraine’s governance work better, which would help European integration proceed more smoothly.