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EU: General Affairs and Foreign Affairs Council

Volume 715: debated on Tuesday 15 December 2009


My honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Chris Bryant) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The General Affairs Council (GAC) and Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) were held on 7 and 8 December in Brussels. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (David Miliband) represented the UK.

The agenda items covered were as follows:

General Affairs Council

The full text of conclusions adopted, including “A” points, can be found at

Preparation of the 10 and 11 December European Council

On economic issues, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary emphasised that governance of the financial markets was a global issue, not just an internal matter for Europe. He stated that the EU should take account of the International Monetary Fund work on renewing the social contract between the financial institutions and wider society, including by ensuring that the financial sector bear the full costs associated with its activities. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary congratulated the presidency on its help in resolving the financial supervision and regulation package.

On climate change, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary underscored the importance of tackling this issue against the backdrop of the Copenhagen conference of parties. He called for the European Council conclusions to reinforce the EU’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, and to be clearer and more specific on climate financing.

On external relations, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, with support from a number of member states, argued for a European Council declaration on Afghanistan, reflecting President Obama's 1 December announcement on troop reinforcements, and the London conference in January 2010. The presidency agreed to draft a declaration, which was discussed at the FAC on 8 December. We also requested conclusions language on development assistance.


Ministers adopted conclusions, which the Government broadly support, welcoming the Commission communication dated 14 October 2009 entitled “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2009-10”. Broadly, the conclusions took stock of progress in accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia, while urging both countries to implement outstanding reforms.

On Turkey, the council welcomed recent initiatives including on the Kurdish issue and recognised that Turkey is an important regional player, playing a key role in energy supply. However, it expressed disappointment that Turkey has not yet fulfilled its obligation to open its ports to trade with Cyprus under the additional protocol to the association agreement and agreed that further efforts are needed to accelerate the pace of Turkey’s accession negotiations. On Croatia, the council commended progress made but stressed further efforts are needed to meet accession criteria in order to be able to conclude negotiations in 2010.

On Croatia’s co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) the council welcomed the creation of a new investigative task force, noted that substantial progress had not been reported, and called on Croatia to take the necessary steps to complete a comprehensive and credible investigation into missing documents without further delay. On Iceland, the council noted its application for EU membership in July and agreed to come back to the issue when the Commission presents its assessment on whether Iceland is ready to open accession negotiations.

The council reaffirmed EU support for the European perspective of the western Balkans; noted that the Office of the ICTY Prosecutor was content with Serbia’s current levels of effort in their co-operation, and that the EU would start implementing the interim agreement; welcomed the fact that Macedonia had substantially addressed the key priorities of the accession partnership, noting the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations and agreeing to return to the matter during the next presidency; expressed concern about political developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina and called on its leaders to speed up key reforms; welcomed the Commission’s study on furthering Kosovo’s political and socio-economic development and invited the Commission to take the necessary measures to support Kosovo’s progress towards the EU; and welcomed progress in Albania and Montenegro, while urging the countries to intensify efforts on reforms in a number of areas and agreeing to return to their membership applications once the Commission had presented its “Avis” (opinions).

EU Disaster Management

Ministers approved a presidency report on reinforcing the EU’s capacity for preventing and responding to disasters, which the Government support while recognising the primary role of national responsibility in disaster management.

Trio Programme of the Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies

Spain, Belgium and Hungary briefly presented their programme, and looked forward to chairing the GAC under their presidencies, and to close co-operation with the President of the European Council and the High Representative. The Government welcome the trio’s emphasis on finalising the international climate change negotiations, putting in place a Lisbon strategy fit to take the EU beyond the aftermath of the economic crisis and bringing Europe closer to its citizens.

External Relations Council

The full text of all conclusions adopted can be found at data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/111833.pdf.

Western Balkans

The presidency briefed on the EU/US initiative to unblock progress on reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ministers held an exchange of views on the future of EUFOR Operation Althea. They agreed to revert to the latter at their next meeting in January.


Ministers also approved a draft European Council declaration on Iran which draws attention to Iran’s continued failure to comply with international obligations and signals the EU’s readiness to begin a new phase of work on the pressure side of the dual-track approach, which the Government welcome.

Middle East Peace Process

Ministers agreed conclusions that called for the resumption of negotiations leading to a two-state solution within an agreed time-frame; referred to Jerusalem as the future capital of two states and declared that the EU will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders; emphasised the importance of the United States’ efforts; welcomed and encouraged Palestinian efforts on state-building and improving law and order; reiterated commitment towards the security of Israel and its full integration into the region; and welcomed and encouraged Israel's steps to ease restrictions of movement in the West Bank.


Ministers agreed to forward the presidency's draft declaration to the December European Council for adoption, which the Government welcome. The declaration notes that an international conference is to be held in London in January 2010, underscores the EU’s readiness to support President Karzai in meeting his commitments, and highlights the need to maintain a comprehensive approach to the challenges in Afghanistan, building on a combination of political/ civilian development and military instruments.


France briefly raised the EU approach to Burma. The presidency underlined that EU action was in train.

AOB: Honduras

Spain called on the EU to monitor progress on reconciliation, as well as the views of the US and key states in the region, and keep the situation under review.

“A” points

The council adopted the following conclusions or decisions without discussion:

conclusions on Iraq;

conclusions on Horn of Africa;

conclusions on climate change and international security;

conclusions on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law; and

conclusions on human rights and democratisation in third countries.