The General Affairs Council (GAC) and Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) were held on 22 February in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary represented the UK.
The agenda items covered were as follows:
Foreign Affairs Council
The full text of all conclusions adopted, including ‘A’ points, can be found at:
High Representative Ashton gave a positive assessment of the EU’s contribution and announced that she would travel to Haiti soon, together with Humanitarian Commissioner Georgieva. The Commission said it would release €5 million (£4.39 million) in budget support within the next few days, rising to €50 million (£43.9 million) in the remainder of 2010; and was committing a further €90 million (£79.1 million) in humanitarian assistance, on top of the €30 million (£26.4 million) already committed, probably primarily for areas outside Port-au-Prince.
The High Representative proposed that the March FAC agree conclusions giving her the mandate to represent the EU at the donors’ conference in New York in late March; and that the EU should offer a significant long-run reconstruction package at the conference. Ideas for increasing EU visibility would also be discussed. The Government broadly welcome this approach.
At the High Representative’s request, the Foreign Secretary introduced the discussion. He highlighted that the EU needed to pursue the dual track policy and also increase the pressure in relation to human rights, whilst the E3 plus 3 pursued work on the new UNSCR. Ashton concluded that there was a high degree of consensus around several recommendations: including that the dual-track policy should be pursued “calmly and steadily”; and that the EU should be ready to support the UN track. The Government strongly endorse this approach.
This item was dropped from the FAC agenda.
The High Representative welcomed the conduct of the Ukrainian presidential elections. The Commission presented initial proposals for engagement with the new President that set out the reforms required and the EU support on offer. Following a discussion of these proposals, the High Representative noted the support from many member states to engage strongly with the new Ukrainian team, but also the need for progress with reforms on the Ukrainian side. The Government strongly support this approach.
The High Representative gave an update on the appointment of an EU special representative to Afghanistan. Once the process is completed, the successful candidate would be double-hatted as the head of the EU delegation in Kabul.
Poland raised the ongoing repression of Belarus’ Polish minority. The Commission noted that it had already lobbied the Belarusian Foreign Minister. The High Representative said that the FAC would return to this issue.
Ministers agreed a statement on the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on 20 January. It condemned the fact that those involved in the operation had used passports and credit cards which had been fraudulently acquired through the theft of EU citizens’ identities. The Government strongly support the statement. The Foreign Secretary said that the EU needed to think hard about how it could promote peace and stability in the region, because the longer this was left unaddressed, the greater the risk of individual incidents such as this spilling over.
Malta, Italy and Spain briefed Ministers on the Libya/Swiss bilateral dispute, which had prompted Libya to refuse visas to citizens of all Schengen countries, including many EU member states. The High Representative concluded that Libya’s actions had been disproportionate, and encouraged the Swiss to resolve the matter diplomatically.
Portugal briefed Ministers on the recent flooding and landslides in Madeira. The High Representative said that she was keen to offer Portugal such assistance as possible.
The Council discussed briefly the coup d’état in Niger on 18 February and called for the swift restoration of democracy and constitutional order.
General Affairs Council
The full text of all conclusions adopted can be found at:
Preparation of the European Council, 25-26 March
The European Council agenda will consist of the Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and growth and climate change. The Government welcome the presidency’s choice of topics. The UK agreed that leaders needed continuously to pay attention to economic policy—but in order to make sure that a strategic view and assessment of progress could be made, a dedicated annual economic summit was needed; otherwise, the risk was that strategic consideration of economic policy would be derailed by events. The presidency expressed the need for progress on Europe 2020 at the spring European Council, to show that the EU could deliver for its citizens.
The new Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, set out her intentions for European climate policy in the wake of Copenhagen, placing particular emphasis upon the need for better co-ordinated outreach to the major international players. Many member states called for the maintenance of the EU’s ambition on climate, for the speedy operationalisation of the Copenhagen accord, and for delivery of the promised fast-start funding, all of which are in line with the UK position.
Dinner with President van Rompuy
The discussion covered the 11 February informal European Council and preparations for the spring European Council. President van Rompuy expressed satisfaction with the 11 February summit, although the dominance of economic issues had left work unfinished on climate change and Haiti, which the GAC and European Council would need to follow up.
The Council adopted the following conclusions or decisions without discussion:
Council conclusions on Zimbabwe
Council conclusions on the Republic of Moldova: Restrictive measures against the leadership of the Moldavian region of Transnistria
Council decision extending restrictive measures against the leadership of the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova
Relations with Morocco: Adoption of the EU position in view of the EU-Morocco summit
Relations with the Kyrgyz Republic: Establishment of the EU position for the 11th meeting of the EU-Kyrgyz Republic Co-operation Council