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Brussels, 11 May, 2001
The European Commission Background Note on the General Affairs Council on 14 and 15 Mai 2001
Key items are :
enlargement and Middle East. Other important topics to be discussed include EU-UN -relations (dinner with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan) and Western Balkans.
The discussion will adress in particular the issue of free movement of workers and the proposal for a transition period. Two elements are on the table :
Peace process: The Egypt/Jordan initiative is the only current initiative to re-launch negotiations. EU Foreign Ministers in Nyköping agreed that further efforts of the EU in the region should be based on this initiative and on the findings of the Mitchell Commission.
On 5 May 2001 the 'Mitchell Commission' presented its report to the parties, identifying the PA's reluctance to curb terrorist activities and Israel' settlement policy as main causes for the continuously deteriorating situation in the Middle East. The PA welcomed the report while the Israeli government reserved the right to make comments on its findings.
EC-Israel Association Agreement and rules of origin: Basic EU position has been that the Occupied Territories held by Israel and the settlements are not part of the territory of the state of Israel (according to international law). The EC must uphold the rule of law.
About 2000 certificates of origin have been sent to Israel's customs authorities by Member States customs authorities. The EC-Israel Association Agreement foresees that Israel's customs authorities have up to ten months to send an answer to Member States custom authorities. In case Israel customs authorities fail to answer or if the reply does not contain sufficient information to determine the authenticity of the document in question or the real origin of the products, the requesting customs authorities shall refuse entitlement to the preferences.
On Monday ministers will discuss and may decide about common views and possible follow-up to take on this issue.
Need for enhanced co-operation between EU and UN has figured prominently on the EU agenda after the UNSG's visit to Europe in October last year.
The recent Commission's communication "Building an effective partnership with the UN in the field of Development and Humanitarian Affairs" set a number of fundamental principles for strengthening the working relationship between the EC and the UN, mainly through enhanced selectivity, predictability and active presence.
Commission considers that conflict prevention should be a major element of the enhanced structural dialogue between the EU-UN. The recent Commission's communication focuses on long-term as well as short-term prevention and international cooperation.
The Commission believes that substantive improvements in the Community - UN relationship can be achieved.
Activities in the fields where the Commission has considerable expertise (the economic, social, environmental, drugs, humanitarian and human rights areas) also offer a great potential for synergies and for enhancing the EC/UN relationship.
Enhanced co-operation in development and humanitarian affairs should follow from the implementation of Commission's communication, in which it sets out a number of principles for strengthening the working relationship between the EC-UN. Under the principle of selectivity the Commission will strengthen cooperation with those UN entities providing added value. Under the principle of predictability by clearly setting out long-term priority areas for co-operation, the UN will be able to receive a more predictable flow of EC financial contributions. Under the principle of active presence the Commission will further exploit the already extensive opportunities for active EC participation in the work of the governing bodies of priority UN entities. The Commission is proposing to intensify co-operation on EC priorities that match key capabilities of UN agencies. The Commission is suggesting amending legal and administrative provisions governing EU/UN financial cooperation and is proposing to provide programme funding to selected UN agencies.
The main elements of the discussion are likely to be
The draft Council conclusions cover FYROM, Southern Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia. The draft will be updated by the Political and Security Committee on the morning of the GAC.
The ceremony for the initialling by Commissioner Patten and Foreign Minister Picula of the Croatia Stabilisation and Association Agreement will take place in presence of GAC members around just before lunch (around 13 hours). There will be short statements. Media are invited to be present.
Discussion in the GAC will clearly depend on the situation on the ground.
a) Donors conference
Ministers will discuss the modalities and the timing of the Donors conference, planned for June. This donors conference is being organised by the European Commission and the World Bank.
b) Southern Serbia
Update on the latest situation.
The draft Council conclusions stress the need for transparent negotiations between Podgorica and Belgrade and the EU's preference for a solution which preserves the federation. The conclusions also pick up the language agreed at the Contact Group Ministerial on 11 April that the continuation of assistance to Montenegro depends on them pursuing dialogue and avoiding unilateral moves.
All that is clear after elections is that Montenegrin society is evenly split, and any moves which disregard the wishes of the other half could, in a volatile and polarised environment, risk civil conflict. Negotiations are ongoing between Liberals and Djukanovic's coalition on the creation of a new government.
International pressure (e.g. Troika EU Political Directors, in Belgrade and Podgorica on 24-25 April) is also pushing for genuine negotiation.
a) Targeting assistance
The Commission has been out in front with the firm message to Kosovo Albanians that the willingness of donors to continue to support the reconstruction of Kosovo had its limits if there was no attempt to actively oppose violence in the province and originating there.
The Commission announced at the technical meeting of Donors that took place in Pristina on 25 and 26 of February, that up to €350 million would be committed to the reconstruction of Kosovo in 2001, provided the normalisation of the province was assured.
b) legal framework
Work on the legal framework for the provisional institutions of self-government is being finalised. Preparation for the Kosovo-wide elections to these provisional institutions has now begun.