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EU: General Affairs and External Relations Council

Volume 687: debated on Wednesday 6 December 2006

My right honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Mr Geoff Hoon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 11 and 12 December in Brussels. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mrs Margaret Beckett) and I will represent the UK. The agenda items are as follows:

General Affairs

Council's 18-month Programme, January 2007 to June 2008

Germany will present the council with a combined programme covering the German, Portuguese and Slovenian presidencies. This programme is divided into three parts: the strategic framework, specific priorities for each presidency and a comprehensive programme of issues expected to be covered during the 18-month period.

Preparation of the European Council on 14 and 15 December 2006

The council will review the latest draft of the European Council conclusions, including texts on climate security, energy, justice and home affairs issues and innovation.

Enlargement

The council will discuss preparation of the accession conference with Croatia on 11 December. Ministers are also expected to discuss the Commission's 29 November recommendations on Turkey's accession negotiations.

External Relations

Western Balkans

The council will discuss the Commission's progress reports, published on 8 November. These review progress made by each of the western Balkans countries in meeting the conditions of the stabilisation and association process.

Middle East Peace Process

We expect the council to discuss a forward-leaning package of practical support that could be introduced if an acceptable national unity Government emerges, such as building Palestinian institutional capacity. Should Ministers discuss the situation in Lebanon, the Foreign Secretary may brief partners on her recent visit.

Iran

High Representative Solana will brief the council on UNSC discussions in New York.

Afghanistan

The council will discuss Afghanistan at a time of increasing EU activity. A European security and defence policy (ESDP) fact-finding mission is in Afghanistan examining the possibility for a full ESDP mission on policing and rule of law in 2007. This is intended to complement Italian and German efforts on justice sector reform and policing. The UK is a strong supporter of increased EU activity in Afghanistan and is working closely with partners to achieve this. We want the mission to take a strategic and co-ordinated approach, working closely with the Afghan Government and the other donors, and looking at links right across the justice sector, including counter-narcotic policing and justice institutions. At the NATO summit in Riga, France proposed the establishment of an international contact group on Afghanistan. Heads of Government agreed at Riga that the NATO Secretary-General should revert with a proposal for a contact group to the North Atlantic Council, but we expect this also to be raised at the GAERC.

China

The council is expected to adopt council conclusions on the EU-China strategic partnership. Ministers will also discuss the arms embargo.

Draft Council Common Position Defining Common Rules Governing the Control of Exports of Military Technology and Equipment

The council will discuss the common position, which updates and makes legally binding the existing EU code of conduct on arms exports.