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Foreign Affairs/Development Foreign Affairs Councils

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 4 June 2013

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 27 May and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development attended the Development Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 28 May. The FAC and Development FAC were chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland.

Commissioners Damanaki (Maritime Affairs and Fisheries), Georgieva (International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response), Potocnik (Environment), Füle (Enlargement) and Piebalgs (Development) were in attendance for some of the discussions at the FAC and Development FAC.

A provisional report of the meetings and conclusions adopted can be found at: uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/137317.pdf.

Foreign Affairs Council


Ministers agreed conclusions that focused on reiterating the EU’s concern at the situation in Syria especially the humanitarian crisis, highlighting the EU’s support for progress in Geneva based on the principles of the 2012 Geneva communiqué, support for the Syrian opposition and the Istanbul meeting, and post-conflict planning.

Ministers agreed that a Council decision putting in place the sanctions package for the next 12 months would be adopted before the existing sanctions expired on 1 June. Ministers agreed to end the EU arms embargo and return decisions on arms provision to the member states. They agreed a framework of safeguards to guide those member states who might decide to provide arms: arms can only be sent to the Syrian national coalition for opposition and revolutionary forces, and must be intended for the protection of civilians; member states must require safeguards that ensure delivery to the intended recipients; and Ministers confirmed that existing obligations under the EU common position for arms exports remain in place. Member states said they would not proceed at this stage with deliveries of arms, in order to give time for the Geneva II process to succeed. Separately from this, ministers also agreed to review the Council position on the arms embargo before 1 August, on the basis of a report from the high representative.

Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

Ministers discussed preparations for the December European Council discussion on defence. Baroness Ashton highlighted the need to spend national defence budgets more effectively in order to develop key military capabilities and strengthen Europe’s defence industry. Baroness Ashton stressed that implementation of the EU’s comprehensive approach was key to a successful CSDP and that the EU needed to improve its civilian missions. There was widespread support from Ministers for Germany’s recent non-paper on civilian CSDP, of which the UK is a co-signatory, with an emphasis on improving mission planning, speed of deployment and access to funding. Other member states also raised maritime security, cyber security, the need for CSDP to complement NATO, the utility of regional approaches to European capability development, the EU’s role in the western Balkans and the timing of Baroness Ashton’s report on EU CSDP.

Middle East Peace Process

The planned discussion on the middle east peace process was postponed until the June FAC.

Iran E3+3

Baroness Ashton updated Ministers on her meeting with the Iranian chief negotiator Jalili in Istanbul on 15 May where Baroness Ashton had stressed that Iran needed to consider seriously the E3+3’s confidence building measures.


Baroness Ashton briefed Ministers on the high-level donors’ conference on Mali which took place in Brussels on 15 May. More than €3.25 billion had been pledged, including €520 million from the EU. Baroness Ashton said that progress was being made on the political front and that preparations for the handover from African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to the UN were going well. Ministers agreed conclusions that confirmed the importance of the political process and national reconciliation.


Baroness Ashton welcomed the Somalia conference held in London on 7 May which had demonstrated strong international support for Somalia. The Foreign Secretary noted that the London conference had served as good preparation for the EU Somalia conference to be held 16 September. The Foreign Secretary highlighted the €350 million in new pledges made at the London conference and stressed the need for this to be delivered quickly to improve Somalia’s justice systems, police, armed forces and public financial management.


Baroness Ashton reported back on her 21-22 May meeting with the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, which had agreed an implementation plan following the 19 April agreement on northern Kosovo. Baroness Ashton informed Ministers that the implementation plan had now been approved in both capitals. Rapid implementation of the agreement was needed ahead of discussions in the June General Affairs Council and European Council, which will include consideration of a date for the opening of accession negotiations with Serbia.

Other business

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of other measures, including:

The Council authorised member states to sign the arms trade treaty with respect to matters falling under the exclusive competence of the Union. It encouraged member states to sign the arms trade treaty at the solemn ceremony in New York on 3 June or at the earliest possible date.

The Council amended legislation implementing the EU restrictive measures in view of the situation in Libya. Changes were made to take account of modifications adopted by the UN Security Council.

The Council extended the EU police mission in Afghanistan until 31 December 2014.

The Council allocated a budget of €110 million to the EU rule of law mission in Kosovo to cover the period from 15 June 2013 until 14 June 2014.

The Council noted the comprehensive annual report on CSDP and CSDP-related training 2012, and approved its conclusions as a basis for further actions to improve training in the field of CSDP.

The Council authorised the opening of negotiations with Libya for an agreement on the status of the EU integrated border management assistance mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya).

The Council took note of the third report on member states’ progress in facilitating the deployment of civilian personnel to CSDP missions.

The Council approved an administrative arrangement between the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Serbia, with a view to its conclusion by the EDA steering board. The arrangement sets out procedures for a mutual exchange of information as well as for Serbia’s participation in EDA projects and programmes.

Development Foreign Affairs Council

Post-2015 agenda

Ministers endorsed conclusions on the overarching post-2015 agenda that set out the high-level EU position on preparations for a future framework in advance of the September millennium development goals review event. Ministers agreed that the post-2015 and Rio+20 follow-up processes should converge. The International Development Secretary said it was vital that the EU send a clear message on the need for an integrated agenda leading to one set of goals, while remaining flexible in international negotiations to the positions of partner countries on the detail. The conclusions will now proceed to the EU Environment Council on 18 June and be considered for adoption at the General Affairs Council on 16 June.

Agenda for Change

Commissioner Piebalgs introduced a Commission/ EEAS paper updating member states on progress on implementation of the EU aid reform programme set out in the “Agenda for Change”, and reiterated his conviction as to its core principles. Joint programming and demonstrating results were particularly important, as well as blending grants and loans to leverage more money for partner countries.

Ministers welcomed the opportunity to scrutinise progress at a political level and many were positive about joint programming. The International Development Secretary called for more action on the results framework so the EU could better demonstrate value for money, and for more information on progress on gender equality, empowerment of women and private sector development.

Food and nutrition security

Ministers agreed conclusions on food and nutrition security in external assistance setting out a new EU policy framework to enhance maternal and child nutrition and a new EU implementation plan. The Irish presidency noted the important work being done by the UK through the G8 presidency and encouraged the EU and member states to support the UK’s “Nutrition for Growth” event on 8 June.

2012 Official Development Assistance (PDA) Targets

Ministers adopted conclusions on the annual report 2013 to the European Council on EU development aid targets. Commissioner Piebalgs said it revealed a worrying trend and urged member states to take the necessary steps to meet the 0.7% ODA commitment. This was not just about charity but investment from which the EU would benefit in terms of security, immigration and job creation.

European Development Fund

The Council established the EU position on the financial protocol concerning the 11th European Development Fund for 2014 to 2020. In total, €31.5 billion will be available for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states in that period. Ministers also noted that Somalia had acceded to the ACP-EU partnership (Cotonou) agreement.

The EU approach to resilience

Ministers agreed conclusions on the EU approach to resilience setting out guiding principles and priorities for implementation.

Other business

The International Development Secretary briefed Ministers on UK G8 presidency priorities, including forthcoming events on trade, tax and transparency, the “Nutrition for Growth” event being co-hosted with Brazil and the leaders’ summit at Lough Erne. The UK and France had recently signed up to the extractive industries transparency initiative. The Minister also gave an update on the work of the global partnership, which was well placed to support the EU’s efforts on post-2015.

The meeting ended with an informal lunch with UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson where discussion focused on the post-2015 agenda.