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Eu General Affairs Council, 13Th-14Th May

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 21 May 1996

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the EU General Affairs Council on 13th to 14th May.

The A Points in Document 7127/96 which will be placed in the Libraries of the House as soon as it is available, were approved.The Presidency noted the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament in Document 6216/96, PE-RE 33 and drew attention to Nos. 8 (cooperation on EU fisheries with Morocco), 23 (outcome of Turin European Council), 24 (Central and Eastern Europe Integration into internal market), 30 (Baltic Sea Cooperation) and 32 (EMU and Economic and Social Cohesion).The Council heard a progress report from the Chairman of the Consultative Commission on racism and xenophobia, Jean Khan, about the Commission's study on a possible EU Observatory on racism and xenophobia.The Council reached political agreement on draft negotiating directives for a new EU/Mexico Agreement. The Commission also presented draft negotiating directives for new agreements between the Community and Cambodia and Laos; and updated agreements between the Community and Bangladesh and Pakistan.The Commission gave a brief report on progress in the negotiations for "Euro-Med" agreements between the EU and Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon; progress towards opening negotiations with Algeria; and the Commission's exploratory contacts with the Palestinian Authority and Syria. The Council decided to reconsult the European Parliament on the text of the MEDA regulation.The Presidency reported on progress in the Middle East Peace Process and Ministers had a meeting in the margins of the Council with Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri, Ministers also discussed reconstruction aid for the Lebanon.

EU High Representative Carl Bildt briefed Ministers about the current situation in Bosnia. Mostar Administrator Casado briefed the Council on the Mostar elections. Ministers also had a brief discussion on Albania.

The Council agreed the EU/Russia Action Plan and adopted conclusions reaffirming its support for the reform process, looking forward to free and fair elections, and restating EU willingness to take part in observation of them.

The Council endorsed conclusions on preparation for the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Singapore in December.

The Council also adopted conclusions on Niger, foreseeing progressive resumption of EU co-operation, subject to a review at the Council on 10th June of the results of the 12th May referendum and the lifting of the ban on political parties; and on Liberia, expressing concern at the humanitarian situation and affirming EU willingness to provide humanitarian aid.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary urged EU partners to agree to a relaxation of the ban on the export of gelatine, tallow and semen.

The second substantive ministerial meeting of the IGC also took place on 13th May. Ministers had before them a Presidency note (CONF 3847/96, which has been deposited in the Library of the House) which raised two broad issues for discussion: flexibility of the Union and the efficiency and balance of the institutions. On the former, Ministers considered the desirability of more flexible structures in the Union and whether treaty provisions were necessary to provide a framework for this. On the latter, Ministers considered a range of institutional issues, including the size of the Commission, the scope and weighting of qualified majority voting, the role of the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice, in particular in the light of future enlargement.

The ministerial session was preceded by an exchange of views with the European President and two representatives of the European Parliament.

There were Association Councils with Malta and Cyprus on 14th May, followed by a joint structured dialogue meeting and lunch.