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House of Commons Hansard
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Foreign Affairs and General Affairs Councils June 2016
30 June 2016
Volume 612
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My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 20 June and I attended the General Affairs Council on 24 June. The Foreign Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council was chaired by the Dutch presidency. The meetings were held in Luxembourg.

Foreign Affairs Council

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

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/fac/2016/06/20/

In her introductory remarks, Ms. Mogherini highlighted the conclusions on Burma and business and human rights. Ministers signed the EU/East Africa economic partnership agreement.

Arctic

The UK welcomed the adoption of Council conclusions on the Arctic: the EU has an important role in helping to meet the challenges facing the region, focusing on those areas where it can add value, such as research, climate change and the environment.

The Sahel

Ms. Mogherini updated Ministers on her recent discussions with G5 Sahel countries—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger—and emphasised the importance of working in partnership with third countries to address shared challenges, particularly migration. Council conclusions were adopted which set out the importance of tackling the long-term drivers of instability and migration, as well as the need to continue to strengthen the capacity of local security forces.

Macedonia

Ministers discussed the longstanding political crisis in Macedonia. The Foreign Secretary expressed concern at the continuing crisis and supported renewed EU/US negotiations. Ms. Mogherini issued a statement after the Council ended, calling for the full implementation of the Przino agreement signed one year ago by the political parties, which included the creation of a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of abuse of power.

Middle east peace process

Ministers exchanged views on prospects for the middle east peace process, in the light of the upcoming Quartet report, and planned follow-up to the 3 June Paris conference. In spite of sobering developments on the ground, Ministers shared the view that the EU must remain proactive and engaged, and be ready to invest further political capital as soon as conditions allow.

Georgia—visa liberalisation

Ministers exchanged views on visa liberalisation in the context of EU-Georgia relations, pursuant to the proposal submitted by the Commission in March to exempt Georgian nationals from the requirement to obtain visas when travelling to Schengen countries for short stays. The UK is not part of the border and immigration aspects of Schengen so would not be affected by any changes to the relevant regulation 539/2001 pursuant to the Commission proposal.

Libya /EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia

The Council adopted the Council decision to extend and expand Operation Sophia’s mandate to boost the capability of the Libyan coastguard to help stem the flow of illegal migration and to combat arms trafficking. It is important that work to implement this decision starts as soon as possible. The UK will work with the Libyan authorities, regional countries, other EU member states and international organisations to achieve this. Operation Sophia has already saved almost 15,000 lives and destroyed over 120 smuggling vessels. Operation Sophia’s additional tasking will build the Libyan Coastguard’s ability to tackle migration and limit Daesh terrorists’ freedom of movement.

Under any other business, the German Foreign Minister updated the Council on the German chairmanship of the OSCE. He set out his plan to visit Nagorno Karabakh in late June to encourage both sides to continue a sustained dialogue.

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of measures:

The Council adopted conclusions on the middle east peace process.

The Council adopted conclusions on Myanmar/Burma.

The Council adopted conclusions on business and human rights.

The Council adopted conclusions on child labour.

The Council approved the signature and provisional application of the economic agreement between the EU and East African Community (EAC) partner states.

The Council approved the EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world in

2015.

The Council repealed common position 2008/109/CFSP and Council regulation 234/004, lifting restrictive measures and an arms embargo imposed against Liberia.

The Council adopted the EU’s common position in view of the third meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council with Serbia, which took place in Brussels on 22 June 2016.

General Affairs Council

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

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2016/06/21/

The General Affairs Council on 24 June, in Luxembourg, discussed the outcome of the UK referendum, prepared the June European Council conclusions, and discussed implementation of specific aspects of the inter-institutional agreement (IIA), including the Commission’s Work programme for 2017.

Slovakia also presented its priority work programme for its upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU.

June European Council

The Council discussed the draft conclusions ahead of the European Council on 28-29 June. The European Council is due to focus on migration, economic matters, external relations and the outcome of the UK referendum.

European semester

As part of the European semester process, the Council approved the draft country-specific recommendations which will be endorsed at the European Council on 28-29 June. The recommendations were also approved at the Economic and Financial Council (ECOFIN) and the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO).

Inter-institutional agreement (IIA)—Better law making and transparency

As part of the IIA process, the Council discussed the legislative priorities for 2017, in particular transparency aspects of the IIA and the Commission’s Work programme for 2017, which the Commission will present to the Council in November 2016.

[HCWS54]