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Foreign Affairs Council: 10 December 2018

Volume 651: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2018

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt), attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 10 December. It was chaired by the High Representative and Vice-President of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Brussels.

Current Affairs

The HRVP made reference to Human Rights Day which fell on 10 December. We supported the Dutch proposal for an EU global human rights sanctions regime.

Western Balkans

Ministers discussed recent developments in the western Balkans. On Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ministers recalled the need for Governments to be formed at all levels and ensure that there was progress on the reform agenda. Ministers underlined the importance of supporting efforts to implement the Prespa agreement between Skopje and Athens and expressed their support for the EU’s strong focus on the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Finally, Ministers noted concerns about the Kosovo Government’s decision to increase the tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to 100%, in clear violation of the central European free trade agreement.

EU-African Union co-operation

Ministers discussed EU-African Union (AU) co-operation ahead of the first inter-summit EU-AU ministerial meeting, which will take place on 21 and 22 January 2019 in Brussels. The meeting will cover three main themes: political aspects (peace, security and governance), economic aspects (investment, trade and skills) and multilateralism (strengthening co-operation in support of a rule-based global order). Ministers expressed their clear interest in reinforcing the EU strategic partnership with Africa. They highlighted the importance of engaging with youth and noted the progress already made on co-operation on peace, security and governance, including through the signing of an EU-AU memorandum of understanding on 23 May 2018. On migration and mobility, they highlighted the work done in the framework of the joint Valletta action plan. Ministers also underlined the crucial role of the private sector and private investment to boost EU-Africa relations. They welcomed the proposed new Africa-Europe alliance on sustainable investments and jobs.

Ukraine

Ministers recalled their deep concern about the dangerous increase of tensions in the Azov sea and Kerch strait and reaffirmed that the EU does not recognise the “elections” of 11 November 2018. The Council were joined by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, focusing on the latest developments in the Azov sea and the security situation in Ukraine, as well as on possible EU support to assist the affected regions in south-east Ukraine.

Iran

During discussions about Iran, Ministers focused on the implementation of the joint comprehensive plan of action, including ongoing EU efforts to preserve effective financial channels to Iran and to pursue legitimate trade relations against the background of the re-imposition of US sanctions on 5 November 2018. Ministers also discussed concerns about recent behaviour by Iranian actors on European soil, Iran’s ballistic missiles programme and other regional security aspects.

Venezuela

The HRVP updated Ministers about ongoing work to consider establishing an international contact group with Venezuela that could, if conditions were met, help facilitate a political process. The Council also confirmed its firm stance on the targeted restrictive measures in place on Venezuela. Ministers reconfirmed that the election on 20 May 2018 had lacked any credibility and agreed to find a common EU approach to the start of President Maduro’s second term on 10 January 2019. The Council also recalled its commitment to supporting the population of Venezuela and, in neighbouring countries, to supporting the socio-economic inclusion of Venezuelans and the resilience of host communities. To this end, Ministers welcomed the additional €20 million allocated by the European Commission on 4 December.

The Council agreed a number of measures without discussion:

The Council adopted conclusions on Libya;

The Council adopted conclusions on the situation in Myanmar/Burma;

The Council adopted conclusions on an EU strategy on India;

The Council adopted conclusions on women, peace and security (WPS);

The Council added nine persons to the list of those subject to restrictive measures over actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and because of their involvement in the so-called “elections” in the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic”;

The Council extended the implementation period of its decision on the provision of satellite imagery in support of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPWC) missions in Syria for 12 months;

The Council adopted a decision to provide the EU’s assistance to the United Nations office on drugs and crime (UNODC) in Vienna and the United Nations office of counter-terrorism (UNOCT) in New York for the sustained promotion of universal adherence to and effective implementation of the international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism (ICSANT);

The Council extended the restrictive measures currently in place against the Democratic Republic of the Congo until 12 December 2019;

The Council decided to repeal the EU restrictive measures against Eritrea following the adoption on 14 November 2018 by the United Nations Security Council of resolution 2444 (2018) terminating, with immediate effect, all UN restrictive measures against Eritrea;

The Council amended its decision and regulation concerning restrictive measures against Somali, following the adoption of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2444 (2018) of 14 November 2018. It is now possible to designate persons committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence;

The Council amended its decision and its regulation concerning restrictive measures in respect of the situation in South Sudan, following the update of 21 November 2018 by the UNSC committee on the information relating to one of the persons subject to restrictive measures;

The Council approved the position of the EU, in view of the fifth meeting of the Association Council with Ukraine that will take place in Brussels on 17 December 2018;

The Council adopted the position to be taken on behalf of the EU within the association council set up by the Euro-Mediterranean agreement establishing an association between the EU and Jordan;

The Council adopted a declaration concerning transport costs for land, sea and air deployment of battle groups, which renews for two years the same commitments as in the previous Council declaration. The Council therefore accepts that the Athena mechanism will bear as operational common costs incremental transport costs for land, sea and air deployment of battle groups at short notice to the joint area of operations;

The Council extended the mandate of the EU capacity building mission in Somalia, EUCAP Somalia until 31 December 2020. The Council also agreed on a budget of €66.1 million for the period 1 January 2019 until 31 December 2020;

The Council amended the mandate of the EU military training mission in the Central African Republic (EUTM RCA), to include an interoperability pillar;

The Council established the EU common position for the third meeting of the EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Council;

The Council established the EU common position for the fifth meeting of the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Council;

The Council decided not to oppose the adoption of a Commission regulation amending annex IX to regulation 999/2001 and annex XV to Commission regulation 142/2011 as regards health certification at import into the Union concerning transmissible spongiform encephalopathies;

The Council decided not to oppose a Commission regulation amending annex III to regulation (EC) 110/2008 as regards the registration of the spirit drink “tequila” as a geographical indication.

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