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EU: General Affairs and External Relations Council

Volume 684: debated on Friday 14 July 2006

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 17 July in Brussels. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (Margaret Beckett) will represent the UK.

The agenda items are as follows:

General Affairs

Presentation of the Presidency Priorities

The Finns will present their presidency programme. They will cover a number of important areas over the next six months, including follow-up to the Hampton Court agenda initiated under the UK presidency. Their informal European Council meeting in Lahti on20 October will focus on innovation and energy. They also plan to take forward work in key areas such as climate change, enlargement, security, migration and emergency and crisis response. We welcome these priorities.


This item is on the agenda following the recent conference in Rabat (10 and 11 July), which addressed migration from west Africa. The UK supports the work done by the Rabat conference and agrees with other partners that there is a need for parallel action on migration from east Africa. We will work with concerned partners on setting up follow-up action. Conclusions are expected.

External Relations

World Trade Organisation/Doha Development Agenda

Commissioner Mandelson is expected toupdate partners on the latest state of play on the negotiations.

External Spending Instruments

This was originally put on the agenda as follow up to discussion by officials in Brussels. However, as the structure of the external financing instruments has changed over the past week, following further discussions with the European Parliament, an agreement may be reached on financial allocations at working-group level this week, which would lead to this item being taken off the GAERC agenda.


The UK is very concerned by President Bashir's refusal to accept transition to a UN force inDarfur. We will call for continued pressure on the Government of Sudan to accept handover. In the mean time the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) needs urgent bolstering. This will require significant financial support from the international community.

At the 18 July pledging conference all member states, including those who have not been significant donors so far, should make generous contributions. The UK will formally announce £20 million in support of AMIS for this year, bringing our total contribution to £52 million. We have been lobbying others to do more. Conclusions are expected.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Discussion is likely to focus on elections and the EUFOR RDCongo.

The DRC will see its first democratic elections in 45 years on 30 July. Together, the EC and EU member states are contributing 80 per cent of the financing for elections. The EU is providing an election observation mission (EOM) of over 300 observers. At UN request, the EU is also providing a force (EUFOR RDCongo) to support the UN organisation mission in the DRC (MONUC) over the election period. The French and Germans have provided most of the troops. The UK is providing three officers—one in Potsdam and two in Kinshasa headquarters). We are unable to provide further military personnel because of commitments elsewhere. Conclusions are expected.

Relations with the Western Balkans

We expect Kosovo and Serbia to dominate ministerial discussion. Martti Ahtisaari is likely to brief the GAERC following the UN Security Council meeting this week. We will want to see continued strong EU support for Ahtisaari.

The first meeting of the enhanced troika with Serbia is scheduled to take place following the GAERC.

The council is expected to adopt conclusions covering Kosovo, Montenegro, the conduct of the Macedonian elections and regional co-operation.

The Middle East Peace Process

Ministers will discuss the current situation in Gaza. They will consider how best to continue to work to reduce tension in the region. The council is expected to adopt conclusions.


We expect partners to consider latest developments and the high representative to brief on his recent contacts with the Secretary-General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani.


There may be discussion over lunch on Iraq, which is likely to focus on the international compact, the preparatory meeting of which is scheduled to take place on 20 July.

The secretariat and commission have also produced a joint paper on the Iraq compact. We do not expect conclusions.