My right honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Caroline Flint) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg.
The agenda items covered were as follows:
Preparation of the European Council on 15 and 16 October
Foreign Ministers discussed the agenda of the October European Council, including: the economic and financial situation; energy and climate security; migration; the Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty; and follow-up to the 1 September Extraordinary European Council on Georgia and EU-Russia relations.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary broadly supported the draft European council conclusions and welcomed the leadership shown within the EU in tackling the financial crisis; on climate change and energy, the Foreign Secretary noted the importance of a united EU position on the proposed climate and energy package, and of reaching agreement by December 2008; he also stressed the need for migration policies to take full account of the responsibilities as well as the rights that free movement carries.
Foreign Ministers are also meeting at the European Council. The agenda covers Georgia, EU-Russia relations and the Middle East peace process.
The presidency updated Ministers on preparations for the international talks on Georgia, due to begin in Geneva on 15 October. The council also discussed preparations for the donors’ conference for Georgia on 22 October and agreed that the time was not right to resume talks with Russia on a new partnership and co-operation agreement. We support the council conclusions, which invited the parties to continue the implementation of their commitments under the 12 August and 8 September agreements. The conclusions also welcomed the extension of the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia, confirmed EU willingness to play an active part in the Geneva talks and looked forward to the donors’ conference.
Ministers noted that heads of state and Government would return to these issues at the European Council.
Ministers agreed council conclusions, which the Government strongly support, condemning the announcement of ministerial portfolios over the weekend, encouraging Thabo Mbeki to work to make the power-sharing agreement of 15 September effective and confirming that the EU stood ready to consider additional measures if the impasse continued.
Foreign Ministers discussed the situation following the 28 September parliamentary elections. The council adopted conclusions setting out the EU’s response to recent developments. They retained the existing assets freeze; dropped the ban on ministerial contacts, with the aim of encouraging further democratic progress; and renewed the visa ban for 12 months but suspended it for six months for all but those involved in the 1999-2000 disappearances and the president of the Central Electoral Commission. Without further progress on democratic government and human rights, the ban will be reimposed.
Ministers also adopted without discussion conclusions on Moldova, looking forward to negotiation of a new EU-Moldova agreement and further strengthening of the EU-Moldova relationship, including on visas and free trade. The conclusions also record the EU's desire to facilitate a resolution of the Transnistrian conflict.
The Government welcome the council conclusions, which lifted the EU’s visa ban on members of the Uzbek Government, following a 12-month suspension, in recognition of progress on human rights and democracy. But Ministers decided to retain the arms embargo for another year, and the conclusions look forward to further progress on human rights, democratisation and the rule of law.