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House of Commons Hansard
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Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council
24 March 2015
Volume 594
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My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 March in Brussels. The Foreign Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini.

Dimitris Avromopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, was in attendance for the working lunch at the FAC on migration. The General Affairs Council was chaired by the Latvian presidency. The meetings were held in Brussels.

Foreign Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/fac/2015/03/16/

Africa

Ministers held an in depth strategic discussion on EU relations with Africa, covering peace, prosperity and partnership with regional African organisations. Ms Mogherini highlighted the opportunities Africa offered to the EU and was keen to emphasise that there was a story of progress, growth, and economic opportunity. The Foreign Secretary highlighted the need to focus on both challenges and opportunities, highlighting the contribution Africa could make to an EU energy strategy. He also highlighted the economic benefits that could flow from reform, with the prospect of greater inward investment for those countries that provided good governance and stability.

The Council adopted conclusions on Ebola, noting the scope for the EU and its member states to keep playing a leading role in supporting co-operation in the affected region to end Ebola and ensuring it did not resurge. The Council also adopted conclusions on the Gulf of Guinea action plan, and Mali.

Libya

Ministers discussed the situation in Libya and possibilities for EU support in the event of a positive outcome of the UN-led peace talks. Ms. Mogherini stressed the need for urgent consideration of possible EU support once a National Unity Government was established. The Foreign Secretary agreed that the EU needed to be prepared to respond swiftly to the different scenarios, and set out the importance of focusing on the twin-tracks of the political process and counter-terrorism. He also highlighted the need for the EU to focus on working with international partners to stem the flow of irregular migrants and weapons from Libya, and ensuring that Libya’s financial assets were safeguarded for the benefit of all Libyans. Other member states emphasised concerns over the humanitarian situation, irregular migration flows, energy instability and the rise of extremists. Ministers called on the high representative to prepare policy options, including on possible CSDP activities, ahead of the April FAC. The Commission was also invited to develop a comprehensive strategy for Libya, taking into account the regional context.

Migration

Over lunch, ministers explored how EU foreign policy could contribute to comprehensively tackling Europe’s migration challenges. The debate will feed into the preparation of more concrete proposals for decision at one of the next Foreign Affairs Councils.

Eastern Partnership

The FAC discussed preparations for the fourth Eastern Partnership summit in Riga on 21 and 22 May 2015. The summit, chaired by European Council President Donald Tusk, will bring EU heads of state or Government together with those of Eastern partner countries. A meeting between EU Foreign Ministers and their counterparts from the Eastern Partnership countries is scheduled to take place in the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council in April.

Other business

Hungary raised the situation of Christians in Iraq and passed on a request from the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil for humanitarian assistance. Luxembourg raised Israel’s withholding of tax receipts from the Palestinian Authority.

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of other measures:

The Council adopted conclusions on the EU regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the ISIL/Da’esh threat

The Council welcomed the political agreement to conclude the Bosnia-Herzegovina SAA

The Council approved the EU position for the EU-Ukraine Association Council: The EU agreed the EU-Ukraine Co-operation Council would adopt the EU-Ukraine association agenda

The Council established the EU position for the first meeting of the EU-Moldova Association Council, to take place on 16 March 2015 in Brussels

The Council adopted the EU position for the 11th meeting of the EU-Tunisia Association Council, which will be held on 17 March 2015 in Brussels

The Council authorised the EU to approve the implementation of the EU-Tunisia action plan at the EU-Tunisia Association Council

The Council extended the mandates of two EU special representatives until 31 October 2015:

1. EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, Mr Alexander Rondos. A budget of €1.77 million was allocated to him for the period between 1 March 2015 and 31 October 2015.

2. EU Special Representative for the Sahel, Mr Michal Reveyrand-de Menthon. €900.000 has been set aside for his activities during the period between 1 March 2015 and 31 October 2015.

The Council authorised the opening of negotiations for an agreement on co-operation between the United Nations and the European Union in crisis management operations

The Council extended the mandate of the EU military mission to contribute to the training of Somali security forces

The Council launched the EU military advisory mission in the Central African Republic

The Commission pledged €1 million to Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam.

General Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2015/03/17/

The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 17 March focused on: preparation of the European Council on 19 and 20 March 2015; and the European semester 2015.

Preparation of the March European Council

The GAC prepared the 19 and 20 March European Council, which the Prime Minister attended. The March European Council agenda covered: energy union, including energy security; the internal market and climate security; economic issues including the annual European semester process; and external relations issues, including Ukraine, Libya and the Eastern Partnership summit to be held in Latvia in May.

On energy union I emphasised the importance of having the right governance system in place. Member states must have flexibility to decarbonise in the most efficient way by choosing their own energy mix and the EU must not impose unnecessary burdens, as was recognised at the 2014 October European Council. I also welcomed the commitment to a technology and innovation strategy, but as set out in the Commission’s communication, this should cover the full range of emerging technologies.

On economic issues, I supported the goal of concluding negotiations on an ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial TTIP agreement by the end of the year. I also emphasised the need to pursue the better regulation agenda and reduce regulatory burdens, especially for SMEs.

European semester 2015

The GAC noted the presidency synthesis report and updated road map for the 2015 European semester for further discussion at the March European Council.

Any other business

Under any other business, the presidency briefed the Council on a letter it had received from the Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs outlining the intentions of the Government of Iceland in relation to their application to join the EU.

[HCWS460]