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EU: General Affairs and External Relations Council

Volume 688: debated on Monday 22 January 2007

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 22 January 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

Lisbon Strategy: Commission Annual Progress Report

The Commission is expected to present its annual progress report on the Lisbon reform strategy. The UK supports the Commission's approach, which includes country-specific recommendations.

External Relations

European Neighbourhood Policy

External Relations Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner is expected to present a communication on the European neighbourhood policy (ENP), published on 4 December.

The presidency will brief the council on a process for policy development. The UK supports the development of an ENP which offers good incentives for partner countries to reform.

Western Balkans

The council is likely to focus on the previous day's elections in Serbia with possible conclusions on the conduct of elections.

Ministers are also expected to discuss Kosovo. The UK will want to ensure continued support for UN Status Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his intention to present recommendations shortly after the elections.

The council is also expected to adopt conclusions on Montenegro’s European partnership.

Middle East Peace Process

We expect the council to welcome the meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas and to look for ways to build on this positive momentum to reinvigorate the peace process.

Sudan

President Bashir has shown a greater willingness to co-operate with the international community since the end of December. We need to test his commitment, particularly on the full implementation of UN support, including the hybrid force. The council will need to reinforce these messages.

We also expect the council to discuss finding funding for the African Union mission in Sudan.

Energy External Relations

The discussion will cover security of energy supply, energy efficiency and climate security. It will be an opportunity to discuss the importance of climate security to the EU's foreign policy priorities, given that an unstable climate could undermine the EU's ability to achieve its foreign policy objectives, from energy security to conflict prevention and poverty reduction.

Death Penalty

Italy is expected to raise EU strategy on the death penalty at the council. We welcome further work in this area.

Libya

We expect the council to adopt conclusions on the case of the Bulgarian and Palestinian medical workers convicted of intentionally infecting Libyan children with HIV and sentenced to death after a retrial.

Somalia

Ministers will discuss the current situation in Somalia. The council is expected to adopt conclusions highlighting that there is now an opportunity to advance international efforts to secure a sustainable solution in Somalia.

Iran

Ministers will discuss implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1737. The council is also expected to adopt conclusions.