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Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence)

Volume 617: debated on Friday 18 November 2016

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 14 November. He and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence attended the joint session of the Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) on 14 November. The UK Ambassador to the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC), Angus Lapsley represented my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence at the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) on 15 November. The Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) were chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. 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/2016/10/18.

Turkey

The Council discussed Turkey in the light of recent developments in the country. The Council recalled the declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU of 8 November and agreed on the need to keep communications open with Turkey. No conclusions were adopted.

Eastern Partnership

Ministers exchanged views on recent developments in the six Eastern Partnership States (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine) and looked forward to the next EU-Eastern Partnership summit, to be held in November 2017 in Brussels. Conclusions were agreed. At the end of the discussion the Foreign Secretary debriefed Ministers on his recent visit to the Western Balkans noting that the EU and member states needed to be more visible and engaged in the region.

Syria

Ministers discussed the southern neighbourhood over lunch, focusing on Syria. Ms Mogherini informed the Council of her recent outreach efforts with key actors in the region, in line with the European Council mandate and in full support of the efforts of the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. The Council expressed its concern over the escalation of tensions in the region, and called for an end to the violence in Syria and support for the resumption of a political process. A further 18 Syria sanctions designations were agreed as a procedural point by the Council, bring the total to 28 since the October Foreign Affairs Council.

Libya

Foreign Ministers discussed Libya, and considered how to support the Government of National Accord and implementation of the Libyan political agreement. Ministers underlined that building a safe, secure and prosperous Libya that is able to tackle with confidence the challenges in the region is in our collective interest.

Security and Defence Implementation Plan (SDIP)

Member states agreed conclusions on the security and defence implementation plan (SDIP), which will increase the effectiveness of common security and defence policy. The Foreign and Defence Secretaries restated the UK’s guiding principle that nothing should undermine NATO as the cornerstone of European defence, and this was reflected in the conclusions. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg joined the EU Ministers for a discussion on EU-NATO co-operation, which the conclusions will help strengthen. The Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) also agreed on the need to keep the European defence industry open and competitive.

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of measures:

Council conclusions on Iran.

Council conclusions on security sector reform (SSR).

Council conclusions on the upcoming fifth review conference of the convention on prohibitions on restrictions on the use of certain conventional weapons which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to a have indiscriminate effects (CCW).

The Council authorised the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to open negotiations on a comprehensive agreement between the European Union and Azerbaijan.

The Council agreed in principle on the enhanced partnership and co-operation agreement between the EU and Kazakhstan and requested the consent of the European Parliament.

Foreign Affairs Council (Defence)

Commissioner Bienkowska spoke about the European defence action plan (EDAP), which is due to be adopted by the College of Commissioners at the end of the month. The EDAP will focus on: funding defence research; fostering support for defence supply chains; joint financing of defence capabilities; and an internal market with a defence industry that is fit for purpose.

Member states agreed an increase to the European Defence Agency (EDA)’s budget in line with inflation, the first increase in six years. The UK agreed to maintain the level of the EDA budget in real terms because the EDA had made some progress on reform and performance, and, importantly, in recognition of the EDA’s future role in taking forward SDIP and EDAP issues that could benefit UK security and UK industry.

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