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Foreign Ministers and General Affairs Council (September 2010)

Volume 515: debated on Thursday 16 September 2010

The informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers “Gymnich” was held in Brussels on 10 and 11 September. The UK was represented by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) held in Brussels on 13 September.

The agenda items covered were as follows:


The meeting was chaired by the EU High Representative and Vice President of the Commission Baroness Ashton. The Gymnich is an informal meeting and, as such, no conclusions were adopted.


Baroness Ashton stressed the need for the EU to look strategically and comprehensively at Pakistan: not only as a humanitarian disaster, but also more broadly including institution-building, counter-terrorism, regional stability and nuclear security. Pakistan had always said that trade was the key to its relationship with the EU. The Commissioner for Development (Piebalgs) said the Development Co-operation Instrument had provision for €225 million for Pakistan for 2011-13. The Commissioner for Trade (De Gucht) set out options for trade-related assistance.

Foreign Ministers broadly shared Baroness Ashton’s analysis and set out their initial views on De Gucht’s trade options ahead of further discussions at the European Council (16 September).

Strategic Partnerships

Baroness Ashton set out her views on the EU’s engagement with strategic powers, and in particular China. The Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs (Rehn) and the Commissioner for Climate Action (Hedegaard) set out priorities for the EU’s engagement with China. The Foreign Secretary said the UK wanted the European Council to agree core principles for EU external action; emphasise the importance of trade in the EU’s strategic partnerships; agree an approach to key emerging powers (particularly China and India in advance of summits later this year); and give direction to instruments of EU external action.

EU enlargement

Foreign Ministers from EU candidates countries—Macedonia, Turkey and Croatia (Iceland did not attend)—gave presentations on their respective membership bids and the development of stronger co-operation with the EU. The Commissioner for Enlargement (Füle) gave a broad assessment of progress being made by the candidates towards accession. In the following discussion there was consensus that EU diplomacy had been successful following the ruling on Kosovo’s declaration of independence by the International Court of Justice.

General Affairs Council (GAG)

The full text of all conclusions adopted, including “A” points, can be found at: http://www.consilium. /116489.pdf

The GAC was chaired by the presidency, Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere. The President of the Council, Herman van Rompuy, joined the Council over lunch for a discussion on the agenda of the September and October European Councils.

Preparation for the September European Council

Ministers discussed the draft conclusions for the European Council. I stressed the need for these to put trade at the centre of the EU’s external relationships, with China and India being of particular importance. I also emphasised the UK’s wish for the European Council to agree conclusions on Pakistan that included commitments on humanitarian aid, development funding and trade measures.

There was also a discussion on strengthening economic governance. President van Rompuy will report to the European Council on 16 September on work completed by the taskforce set up at the request of the Council in March.

Preparation for the October European Council

Ministers were presented with a draft agenda for the European Council to be held on 28 and 29 October. The issues proposed are:

Economic policy— The Council will receive a final report from van Rompuy’s taskforce on economic governance.

G-20— The Council aims to agree an EU position ahead of the summit in Seoul on 11 and 12 November.

Climate Change— The Council aims to prepare for the UN framework convention on climate change in Cancun on 29 November - 10 December.

EU-US— The Council aims to discuss the forthcoming EU-US summit on 20 November.

EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

The presidency said that more time was needed for agreement between members states on the draft EU-Korea FTA. The intention was to try to reach agreement in time for the September European Council.


Under AOB, the Commissioner for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration (Sefcovic) raised the common transparency register and codes of conduct for the Commission when interacting with lobbyists.