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Foreign Affairs Council/General Affairs Council

Volume 580: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2014

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 12 May, and I will attend the General Affairs Council on 13 May. The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, and the General Affairs Council will be chaired by the Greek presidency. The meetings will be held in Brussels.

Foreign Affairs Council (FAC)


Ministers will discuss Ukraine against the backdrop of a continued deterioration in the security situation in the east of the country. As the FAC takes place less than two weeks before 25 May Ukrainian presidential elections the Council is an important opportunity for the EU and member states to underline their commitment to supporting Ukraine to deliver free and fair elections in the face of great odds. The UK will emphasise the importance of the rapid establishment of a civilian common security and defence policy (CSDP) mission that we, together with Sweden and Poland, advocated at the April FAC, which is intended to address urgent, stability-related needs, including in the fields of security sector reform, support of police, and rule of law. The UK also expects the Council to reaffirm support for the organisation for security and co-operation in Europe (OSCE) special monitoring mission and to encourage all participating states to contribute to the expansion of the mission. Finally, there will be a discussion of sanctions, including the possibility of further measures in response to recent—and to deter further—Russian actions to destabilise eastern and southern Ukraine.

Middle East Peace Process

Ministers will discuss the latest developments in the middle east peace process. Conclusions should focus on urging both sides to avoid any steps which would make a return to talks more difficult and find the common ground and political strength to resume negotiations. This should include reiterating support for Secretary Kerry’s efforts, and highlighting the dividends of peace, such as the EU’s offer of special privileged partnerships. Trying to apportion blame for the breakdown in talks would be unhelpful. On the subject of the reconciliation deal, the EU should stand ready to engage with any Palestinian Government which upholds the principle of non-violence, remains committed to achieving a negotiated two-state solution, and accepts all previously accepted agreements and obligations, including recognising Israel’s legitimate right to exist.

European Neighbourhood Policy

Over lunch Ministers will discuss the future direction of the European neighbourhood policy (ENP). The UK’s view is that the implementation of the ENP could be improved, and that there is a need for a thorough review, taking account of member states’ views and looking at the long-term outcomes that the EU wants to deliver. The UK wants an ENP that is focused on the EU’s strategic goals—sustainable and long-term economic and political reform, within a strengthened democratic system, with a greater degree of differentiation between partners, and a continued emphasis on conditionality.

General Affairs Council (GAC)

The General Affairs Council on 13 May will focus on preparation for the 26 and 27 June European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. A draft agenda for the European Council has been circulated. At this stage the European Council looks likely to cover: the future justice and home affairs programme; economic issues, including better regulation; climate and energy including a Commission report on EU energy security; and external relations issues (likely to include Ukraine). Leaders will also attend a dinner in Ypres on 26 June to commemorate the outbreak of the first world war.