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Foreign Affairs Council

Volume 623: debated on Wednesday 15 March 2017

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence attended the joint session of the Foreign Affairs Council (Foreign and Defence Ministers) on 6 March. The Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. The meeting was 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/2017/03/06/

The meeting covered a joint session with Foreign and Defence Ministers on defence. The foreign policy agenda featured Egypt, the western Balkans and the middle east peace process. Ministers also touched briefly on migration.

Defence

EU Foreign and Defence Ministers held a joint session to take forward the European Council conclusions of 15 December 2016. The discussion covered: improving the functioning of non-executive military (training) missions through the establishment of a military planning and conduct capability; permanent structured co-operation for better joint capability development; and the co-ordinated annual review on defence. Defence Ministers also discussed the strategic outlook for the EU’s common security and defence policy. The Defence Secretary emphasised the need for EU initiatives to complement NATO and to respect member states’ competence on defence issues. He underlined the UK’s significant contribution and continued commitment to European security and defence, including meeting NATO’s target of 2% of GDP. He stressed the need for European partners to increase national defence spending.

Egypt

Over lunch, Ministers discussed EU-Egypt relations with the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. They discussed political developments, economic reforms, co-operation in various sectors, including counter-terrorism and migration, as well as Egypt’s role in the region, with a particular focus on Libya, Syria and the middle east peace process.

Western Balkans

Ms Mogherini briefed the Council on her recent visit to the region. Ministers welcomed the increased EU engagement. They also discussed the challenges facing the western Balkans including increasing tensions, worsening political dynamics and a growing use of inter-ethnic and nationalist rhetoric, compounded by the role of third parties, socioeconomic difficulties and a perception of EU and US disengagement.

MEPP

Foreign Ministers discussed issues relating to the middle east peace process. The Council discussed preparations for the next EU-Israel Association Council. The HRVP suggested the Council consider holding a similar high-level meeting with the Palestinians.

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of measures:

The Council adopted conclusions on “Implementing the EU global strategy—strengthening synergies between EU climate and energy diplomacies”.

The Council adopted conclusions on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Council adopted the EU guidelines for promotion and protection of the rights of the child (2017)—Leave No Child Behind.

The Council took note of the 18th annual report defining common rules governing controls of exports of military technology and equipment.

The Council adopted the updated military list of the EU in line with the provisions of the common position on arms exports.

The Council adopted the EU-Algeria partnership priorities to be adopted at the EU-Algeria Council, which took place on 13 March.

The Council adopted the EU position for the Association Council with Algeria, which took place on 13 March.

The Council approved a concept note on the operation planning and conduct capabilities for CSDP missions and operations.

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