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General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council

Volume 511: debated on Thursday 10 June 2010

The General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council will be held on 14 June in Luxembourg. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will represent the UK with the Secretary of State for International Development at the respective sessions of Foreign and Development Ministers. I will also attend.

The agenda items are as follows:

Foreign Affairs Council (FAC): Foreign Ministers


Ministers will discuss EU sanctions as part of the dual-track strategy of engagement and pressure, in light of the likely passage of a UN Security Council resolution in week of 7 June. Ministers may also discuss developments in Iran following the anniversary of last year’s June elections.

Western Balkans

Foreign Ministers will discuss the western Balkans, in the light of the Sarajevo high-level meeting on June 2 between EU and western Balkan Foreign Ministers, which the Foreign Secretary attended. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Chief Prosecutor Brammertz is expected to brief Ministers ahead of his six-monthly report to the UN Security Council. Ministers are likely to review the issue of ratification of Serbia’s stabilisation and association agreement with the European Union.

Somalia / Piracy

Ministers will receive an update from the High Representative on her visit to Kenya, Tanzania and Seychelles of 18 to 21 May. Ministers’ discussions are likely to focus on support to regional counter-piracy efforts and strengthening capability for prosecuting pirates.

Middle East Peace Process

Ministers will discuss recent developments on the middle east peace process, the Gaza flotilla incident and international efforts to improve the situation in Gaza. This may include discussions of an independent investigation of events and how restrictions on access might be lifted. Ministers will also discuss the wider peace process, including the American-led proximity talks and their progress.


Ministers will discuss the situation in Sudan, particularly with a view to the January 2011 referendum on self-determination for south Sudan as part of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement (CPA). The Council will also discuss the conflict in Darfur. Ministers will focus on the EU’s engagement on Sudan going forward to support peaceful completion of the CPA, whatever the decision of south Sudan in the referendum. The Council is also likely to stress that efforts must continue to find a political solution to the Darfur conflict and the importance of improving security and humanitarian access in Darfur.

Child labour

Ministers will discuss Council conclusions on the Commission staff working document on combating child labour. The conclusions set out a number of measures the EU should take to combat child labour, including through political dialogue and multilateral affairs; corporate social responsibility; public procurement; and trade incentives.

Corfu Process

The OSCE-led initiative on European security might be discussed in the light of the joint Merkel-Medvedev proposals on strengthening the EU-Russia security policy relationship.


Ministers will discuss the annual evaluation of the EU common position on Cuba, and assess progress made in the EU-Cuba political dialogue. Ministers will also agree Council conclusions on Cuba which will centre on the continuing relevance of the common position, and may call on the Cuban Government to do more to improve the human rights situation in Cuba.

Haiti - Disaster response lessons learned

Ministers will discuss the EU’s response to Haiti. The meeting may also generate further debate on EU disaster response structures and resources.

Any Other Business: Georgia

Georgia is on the agenda at the request of Lithuania. Ministers may discuss the recent local elections (30 May), which the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission noted marked “evident progress towards meeting OSCE and Council of Europe commitments”. There may also be discussion of Georgia’s relations with the EU: a visa facilitation agreement will be signed this month; negotiations on an association agreement are due to start in July; a review of the Georgian action plan for engagement with Abkhazia and South Ossetia; and the European Union monitoring mission’s (EUMM) mandate is due for renewal in the autumn.

FAC: Development Ministers

EU Development Ministers will discuss the following agenda items:

Somalia / Piracy

As with Foreign Ministers, Baroness Ashton will brief on her visit to the region of 18 to 21 May. The discussion is likely to focus on taking a comprehensive approach to all of Somalia’s political, security and development challenges and enhancing co-ordination with the wider international community.

Millennium Development Goals

Ministers will be asked to agree conclusions on a common EU position on the millennium development goals (MDGs) ahead of the UN high-level review meeting on the MDGs in New York in September 2010. Ministers are likely to discuss some of the key issues in the conclusions, most notably levels of official development assistance (ODA) commitments. The UK is committed to supporting an action-orientated and ambitious outcome at the UN Summit.

Gender Equality and Development

This is likely to be a general discussion, focused on the “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Development, EU Plan of Action 2010-2015” which will be attached as an annex to the Council conclusions on the MDGs. The UK has been involved in the drafting of the action plan, which seeks to establish a practical framework to accelerate the achievement of the MDGs, especially MDG 3 (gender) and MDG 5 (maternal health).

General Affairs Council (GAC)

The GAC will present and discuss the draft Council conclusions for the June European Council (JEC) on 17 June which will focus on the European economy, financial regulation in advance of the G20 Toronto summit, millennium development goals and climate change. Economic issues are likely to dominate the European Council: the presidency will be seeking to finalise the Europe 2020 strategy and leaders will want to discuss reforms to economic governance in the wake of recent turbulence.

The Council is expected to endorse conclusions of the 3 to 4 June JHA Council by welcoming progress in implementing the European pact on immigration and asylum. The GAC will also consider potential external items for discussion at the JEC including possible EU sanctions on Iran, following a new UN Security Council resolution.

Strategic Report on the Implementation of Cohesion Policy Programmes

The Commissioners for Regional Policy and Employment and Social Affairs will present the strategic report on the implementation of cohesion policy programmes, published on 31 March 2010. As this is a new requirement for the 2007-13 period, the presidency initiated Council conclusions on the report which are to be adopted. The conclusions invite the Commission to explore possibilities for a better co-ordinated and simplified policy and note that cohesion policy will need to support the Europe 2020 strategy and should continue to foster competitiveness, innovation, employment and economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union.

European Citizens’ Initiative

There will be a discussion of the Commission’s dossier on the European citizens’ initiative. The Government remain concerned that no impact assessment has been carried out with which to better inform the proposed regulation.

2010 Forum for Outermost Europe

The Commissioner for regional policy will present the results of the 2010 forum for outermost Europe to the GAC. Following an initiative of the Spanish presidency, Council conclusions on the outermost regions are likely to be adopted. The conclusions encourage a renewal of the strategy for the outermost regions and a consideration of the role of the outermost regions in EU policies, in particular Europe 2020.