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C/01/61

6506/01 (Presse 61)

2331st Council meeting

- GENERAL AFFAIRS -

Brussels, 26/27 February 2001

Presidents :

Ms Anna LINDH

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Leif PAGROTSKY

Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Trade

of the Kingdom of Sweden

CONTENTS

PARTICIPANTS 4

ITEMS DEBATED

WESTERN BALKANS - Council conclusions 6

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS - financial situation of the Palestinian Authority 8

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - Council conclusions 9

SOUTHERN CAUCASUS - Council conclusions 11

DUTY-FREE ACCESS FOR LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES 12

OTHER BUSINESS 14

    - EL SALVADOR 14

    - ZIMBABWE 14

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

  • Common strategies - Council conclusions I

  • Creation of a rapid reaction mechanism II

  • Turkey -Accession Partnership II

  • FRY - Specific restrictive measures directed against Mr Milosevic and persons associated with him III

  • Association of overseas countries and territories IV

  • Bangladesh - Partnership and Development Agreement IV

  • Relations with Russia - Kaliningrad IV

  • Afghanistan - Additional restrictive measures against the Taliban V

  • Civil protection VI

  • Court of Auditors - Special Report 12/2000 VIII

  • European Economic Area - Decisions of Joint Committee IX

  • Cooperation and commercial relations between the EU and the industrialised countries of North America, the Far East and Australia IX

  • Europe Agreements with Hungary and Czech Republic - Additional Protocols on industrial products IX

  • Association Councils with the Baltic States X

  • EU-Mexico Joint Council X

TRADE ISSUES

  • Relations with Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania - wines and spirits X

  • Textiles - market access (Sri Lanka) XI

  • Textiles - common rules for imports from third countries XI

  • Textiles - trade in textile products (Bosnia and Herzegovina) XII

JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS

  • Schengen - Application of the acquis in the Nordic countries XII

  • European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction - Work programme 2001-2003 XIII

EDUCATION

  • Co-operation programme in higher education and training with the United States of America XIII

  • Co-operation programme in higher education and training with Canada XIV

APPOINTMENTS

  • Committee of the Region XV

  • Economic and Social Committee XV

_________________

For further information call 02-285.64.23, 02-285.87.04 or 02-285.68.08

PARTICIPANTS

The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:

Belgium :

M. Louis MICHELDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs
Denmark :
Mr Mogens LYKKETOFTMinister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Friis Arne PETERSENState Secretary
Germany :
Mr Joschka FISCHERFederal Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Federal Chancellor
Mr Christoph ZÖPELMinister of State, Foreign Affairs
Greece :
Mr George PAPANDREOUMinister for Foreign Affairs
Spain :
Mr Josep PIQUÉ I CAMPSMinister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Ramon DE MIGUEL Y EGEAState Secretary for European Affairs
France :
Mr Hubert VEDRINEMinister for Foreign Affairs
Ireland :
Mr Brian COWENMinister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Tom KITTMinister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (with special responsibility for Labour Affairs, Consumer Rights and International Trade)
Italy :
Mr Rocco Antonio CANGELOSIDirector General for European Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Luxembourg :
Mr Nicolas SCHMITAmbassador, Permanent Representative
Netherlands :
Mr Jozias VAN AARTSENMinister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Dirk BENSCHOPState Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Austria :
Mr Martin BARTENSTEINFederal Minister for Economic Affairs and Labour
M. Gregor WOSCHNAGGAmbassador, Permanent Representative
Portugal :
Mr Jaime GAMAMinister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Francisco SEIXAS DA COSTAState Secretary for European Affairs
Finland :
Mr Erkki TUOMIOJAMinister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Kimmo SASIMinister for Foreign Trade and European Affairs
Sweden :
Ms Anna LINDHMinister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Leif PAGROTSKYMinister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with responsibility for Trade
Mr Hans DAHLGRENState Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

United-Kingdom :

Mr Robin COOKSecretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

* * *

Commission :
Mr Pascal LAMYMember
Mr Chris PATTENMember

* * *

General Secretariat of the Council :
Mr Javier SOLANASecretary General / High Representative for the CFSP

* * *

Other participants :
Mr Hans HAEKKERUPUN Secretary General's Special Representative in Kosovo
Mr Bodo HOMBACHSpecial Co-ordinator for the Stability Pact

WESTERN BALKANS - Council conclusions

"The Council welcomed UN Secretary General Special Representative in Kosovo, Hans Haekkerup and expressed its full support of his efforts to ensure the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. It underlined its continuing commitment to a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo. The Council strongly condemned the latest attack against a convoy of buses carrying Kosovo Serbs close to Podujevo. This act of terrorism is a serious blow against the interests of the people of Kosovo. It will not be allowed to undermine the efforts of the international community to implement fully UNSCR 1244. The Council called on local leaders and communities concerned to increase their efforts to build confidence through constructive dialogue in good faith, and to make progress on issues of common interest. In this context, the Council highly appreciated the central role played by KFOR in assuring security and public order in the province, and its effort to build a safe environment for all the people and communities of Kosovo. The EU is ready to continue its support, including through UNMIK, to the defusing of tensions through projects supporting all ethnic groups and minorities and promoting economic development and enhanced security. It recalled the urgent need for the FRY and Serbian authorities to proceed with the speedy release of all political prisoners. It urged all those responsible to disclose information regarding missing persons and to create conditions for the safe and dignified return of refugees and displaced persons.

The Council welcomed the UNSRSG's proposal to develop, as the next step, a legal framework for provisional institutions for self-government, including adequate safeguards for minority rights. The Council expects all ethnic groups in Kosovo to participate constructively in this process. It agreed with the UNSRSG that the establishment of the legal framework, and in particular the definition of the functions and the powers of the elected bodies, is essential to ensure successful Kosovo wide elections in conformity with UNSCR 1244. In this context the Council underlined the need to develop the electoral system further, including through an updated and integrated civil and voter registry, including refugees and IDPs, so as to ensure that the elections truly represent the will of the population of Kosovo. The Council also stressed the importance of the participation of all communities in the ballot and of ensuring a high security environment for the voting. It further encouraged the authorities in Belgrade to support the election process and exert positive influence on Kosovo-Serb participation in the electoral process.

The Council recalled the substantial support which the EU continues to provide for the stabilisation and development of Kosovo. In support of law and order, EU Member States have provided the largest contribution to KFOR, as well as providing police and judiciary, and provide the majority of funding for the OSCE efforts in institution-building and civil society. The EC has been the largest donor of humanitarian assistance, and remains the lead actor in the field of reconstruction and economic development, not only in financial terms but also through its responsibility/leadership for Pillar 4 of UNMIK. The Council noted that a Donors' Meeting for Kosovo was taking place in Pristina on 25-26 February.

The Council expressed its concern at the level of tension and violence in Southeast Serbia and condemned actions by ethnic Albanian armed groups, which threaten to destabilise the region and hamper the free flow of transport and communications, in particular the Pan-European corridor. In this context, it also condemned the rising number of incidents in FYROM and reiterated its strong attachment to the principle if the inviolability of all borders in the region. It called on all involved to isolate extremists, to promote reconciliation and multi-ethnic co-operation and work constructively towards a peaceful solution of the conflict, with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the FRY. It supported the initiative of the Belgrade authorities to find a peaceful and durable solution to the current situation in Southeast Serbia. The Council expressed its readiness to continue to extend concrete support to efforts towards peaceful solution of the conflict. It underlined the importance of an increased presence of EUMM monitors in the area as a useful contribution in this respect and expressed the readiness of the European Union to make available an additional substantial number of monitors provided that their security is adequately assured.

The Council welcomed projects already undertaken by the Commission and Member States for the development of the area and invited them to consider additional assistance.

The Council welcomed the letter of SG/HR and requested him to urgently present a comprehensive set of proposals for further EU action concerning the Presevo Valley, in close collaboration with the Presidency and Commission, in order to support the process in the region and to contribute to international efforts in the achievement of a peaceful solution.

Following a proposal of SG/HR Solana, the Council endorsed Amb. Antóin MAC UNFRAIDH as the new EUMM Head of Mission."

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS - financial situation of the Palestinian Authority

The Council discussed the financial situation of the Palestinian Authority on the basis of a report by Commissioner Patten.

The Council stressed the need for the EU to play an important role in a concerted international effort aiming at avoiding economic and institutional collapse in the Palestinian territories. It emphasised that the necessary conditions for a functioning Palestinian economy must be assured.

The EU will

    - Urge the Palestinian Authority to draw up, in close co-ordination with the IMF, a revised restrictive budget in order to provide the basis for international support and request the Authority to take effective measures against corruption and towards more democratic transparency.

    - Work with urgency for an international donor meeting to take place under the auspices of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee. In preparation of such a meeting the EU will encourage other donors to pledge funding in support of the Palestinian budget.

    - Make full use of the funds available under the existing cash facility in favour of the Palestinian Authority - in a concerted effort with the international community - in the framework of a long-term approach

The Council urged both sides to refrain from all acts of violence and to return to the negotiating table. The Council renewed its call on Israel to end immediately the withholding of due revenue payments to the Palestinian Authority and to lift closures.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - Council conclusions

"The Council discussed the developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Council noted with satisfaction the solemn commitments made by the parties in Lusaka 15 February and in New York 21 and 22 February, to relaunch the implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, which constitutes the consensual basis for peace in the DRC and the region. It calls on all parties concerned to take immediate measures to permit disengagement and orderly withdrawal of their troops, in accordance with the Lusaka Agreement and the Kampala and Harare Agreements, and in conformity with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

The Council welcomed the adoption of resolution 1341 approving the updated concept of operations for MONUC, and underlines the crucial importance of a rapid deployment of the MONUC to verify and supervise the disengagement of troops, in the perspective of a complete, definitive and unconditional withdrawal of foreign troops from the DRC with the ultimate objective to restore the sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the DRC.

The Council confirmed the European Union's continued political and material support for the MONUC. The European Union will consider how it can give concrete support to the UN force and to its contributors.

The Council reiterated the importance of an early start to the National dialogue, as foreseen in the Lusaka Agreement. It welcomed the acceptance by President Kabila of the facilitator, President Masire, as well as the invitation issued by the DRC to the facilitator to visit Kinshasa. The Council welcomed the role of president Bongo in the process. It recalled that the European Union and Member States have given support to the process of the National Dialogue, and reiterated the European Union's readiness to continue to support its institutional framework.

The Council underlined the importance of disarming armed groups that operate in or from the territory of the DRC. It welcomed the provisions in UN Security Resolution 1341, urging the parties to the conflict to co-operate with the MONUC in the elaboration of a plan for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of all armed groups referred to in Annex A, Chapter 9.1, of the Lusaka Agreement. The European Union is willing to work with the international community, in particular the United Nations specialised agencies, on the modalities of such a programme. It mandated the European Union's Special Representative to engage in a reflection on how to pursue this question. The Council reiterated its request that all parties co-operate fully with the ICTR.

The Council welcomed the expressed intention of the governments of the DRC and Burundi to pursue their discussions, which may facilitate the peace process in the DRC as well as in Burundi.

The Council underlined the seriousness of the humanitarian situation, and took note of the latest report of the Secretary General of the United Nations, which estimates that more than four million people are directly affected by the conflict, including the number of internally displaced persons now estimated to be over 2 million and rising, half of whom are not accessible for humanitarian assistance. The Council urged all parties to guarantee secure, rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance, and stated the European Union's readiness to increase its effort on humanitarian aid, and where possible consider more forward-looking aid. The Council welcomed the efforts made by the Commission of the European Union.

The Council expressed its deep concern at the continuing serious human rights violations in the DRC, and noted the latest report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DRC. It reminded the governments concerned of their responsibility and accountability for upholding the respect for human rights by their own armed forces as well as by the armed forces under their de facto control.

The Council expressed its dismay at the continued recruitment and use of child soldiers in the conflict. It urged all parties to bring this practice to an immediate end, and welcomed the request in the United Nations Security Council 1341 to mandate the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflicts to pursue this objective on a priority basis.

The Council welcomed that, in addition to its stated commitment to the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement, the Government of the DRC has made announcements concerning economic reforms. If followed by concrete action, the European Union is willing to engage in substantive discussion with the DRC on a gradual resumption of development co-operation. In this context the Council welcomes the contact taken by the President of the DRC with the international financial institutions and underlines the central role of these with regard to the economic reform of the DRC.

The Council will consider appropriate measures which could be imposed if parties fail to honour their commitments under the Lusaka Agreement, and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions."

SOUTHERN CAUCASUS - Council conclusions

"The Ministerial Troika visit to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan on 20/21 February 2001 demonstrated the importance the EU attaches to strengthening relations with the Southern Caucasus, with a view to promoting peace, stability, prosperity and regional cooperation.

The EU is willing to play a more active political role in the region. The Council welcomes the warm reception received from the three countries by the Troika visit, perceived as a sign of the EU's continued commitment to the region. All supported a stronger EU role in the Southern Caucasus. In close co-operation with the parties, competent international organisations and the countries of the region, the EU will look for further ways in which it could support efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts as well as in post conflict rehabilitation in the region. Special attention should be given to strengthening the co-operation with the OSCE, the UN and the Council of Europe.

In this context, the EU will reinforce the bilateral and multilateral political dialogue with the countries of the Southern Caucasus. It will also intensify the political dialogue about the region with Russia, Turkey, Iran and the United States.

The EU is continuing its support to the region, in close co-ordination with the relevant international organisations and the IFIs. The effectiveness of its assistance, however, is connected to the development of the peace processes in the region.

The Council invited its competent bodies, with the assistance of the HR/SG, and the Commission to make recommendations for the implementation of a reinforced EU policy, on the basis of preparatory work for and the results of the Troika visit and report back in time for the Co-operation Councils with Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan under the Belgian Presidency."

DUTY-FREE ACCESS FOR LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES

The Council adopted, by qualified majority, a Regulation extending duty free access without any quantitative restrictions to products originating in the least-developed countries (the so-called "everything but arms" proposal).

This measure is not only of substantive value to least-developed countries (LDC), but represents also a concrete indication of EU political goodwill towards the LDC in the context of preparations for the next round of WTO negotiations and for the 3rd UN Conference on LDCs which the EU is to host in Brussels in May 2001.

The Regulation, which will apply from 5 March 2001, provides for full duty free access for the world's 48 poorest countries into EU markets and covers all goods except arms. With respect to the three "sensitive" products (bananas, rice and sugar), the essential elements of the Regulation are :

    - for bananas, full liberalisation from 2006,

    - for sugar, full liberalisation from 1 July 2009,

    - for rice, full liberalisation from 1 September 2009,

    - the allocation of duty free quotas for rice and sugar during the interim period preceding liberalisation. These quotas to be based initially on best figures for LDC exports during the 1990s, plus 15%. They will increase by 15% each year during the interim period,

    - implementation of the following tariff cuts during the interim period:

    = bananas: annual reductions of 20% from January 2002

    = sugar: 20% reduction on 1 July 2006

        50% reduction on 1 July 2007

        80% reduction on 1 July 2008

    = rice :  20% reduction on 1 September 2006

        50% reduction on 1 September 2007

        80% reduction on 1 September 2008.

The Regulation represents a considerable effort by the Community to facilitate the smooth integration of LDCs into the world economy. Granting of the regime is subject to strict compliance by the beneficiary countries with all the provisions applicable in this context, notably as regards the rules of origin.

The Council agreed that the Commission will keep under review the implementation of this Regulation with a view to detecting and addressing any difficulties as soon as possible. In this context, the Commission will examine the extent to which LDCs are benefiting from the trade liberalisation introduced by this Regulation. The Commission will also examine the adequacy of available instruments to address, where justified, any substantial disturbance to Community markets and the regulatory mechanisms, notably as regards rice, sugar and bananas. In the light of this examination, the Commission will, in 2005, submit a report to the Council, and will make the appropriate proposals, if necessary.

The Council also agreed that if imports of the sensitive products caused serious disturbance to the Community markets and their regulatory mechanisms, the Commission may suspend the preferences provided by the Regulation for the products concerned in accordance with the procedure set out in a safeguard clause.

OTHER BUSINESS

  • EL SALVADOR

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep PIQUÉ drew the Council's attention to the difficult situation in El Salvador in the aftermath of the series of earthquakes which had struck this small country over the last six weeks.

The Council invited Member States and the Commission to pursue their assistance to El Salvador and to co-ordinate closely their action in the region. In this context, it welcomed the meeting of the Consultative Group on El Salvador, to take place in Madrid on 7 March, and emphasised the need for effective co-ordination of international assistance.

  • ZIMBABWE

The Council had a brief exchange of views on Zimbabwe following an update by UK Foreign Secretary Robin COOK on the deterioration of the situation in this country in recent weeks.

The Council will take the necessary steps to propose to the government of Zimbabwe a comprehensive and balanced dialogue. The Council will come back to this issue in due course.

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

Common strategies - Council conclusions

The Council welcomed the report of the Secretary General/High Representative on Common Strategies as a valuable contribution to its considerations of how to improve the effectiveness of the Union's external action.

Common Strategies are an important instrument in promoting the Union's interests in a more coherent way. However their potential should be further developed and greater efforts are needed to improve their implementation.

With a view to making more efficient use of existing and future common strategies, the Council agreed that the following guidelines should apply:

    - Common Strategies should be expected to bring clear added value, identified in advance, including the improvement of coherence and co-ordination of external policies, both bilateral and multilateral.

    - Common Strategies should be more focussed on clearly identified issues and themes. They should cover specific, well defined and verifiable policy objectives The SG/HR and the Commission should play central roles in this regard.

    - Common Strategies should aim at enhancing the coherent use of all appropriate means and resources available to the Union, the Community and the Member States including subsequent implementation through common positions and joint actions adopted by QMV.

    - Progress in the implementation of verifiable objectives should be measured regularly and necessary adjustments should be made. Within its overall responsibility, the Council will in particular ensure a close monitoring of the implementation, including an annual review in January, drawing on the contributions of the SG/HR and the Commission, both of whom should play an active role in the implementation.

The Council looks forward to further recommendations from the SG/HR and the Commission on how to improve the implementation of existing common strategies.

Creation of a rapid reaction mechanism

The Council adopted a Regulation creating a rapid reaction mechanism.

The RRM is designed to allow the Community to respond in a rapid, efficient and flexible manner, to situations of urgency or crisis or to the emergence of crisis. It builds on a large number of existing Community legal instruments, both "geographical" and "sectoral" (e.g.food aid, reconstruction, NGOs, etc.).

RRM Actions may be undertaken if:

    (a) the action is intended to be immediate and cannot be launched within a reasonable time-limit under the existing legal instruments, in view of the need to act rapidly.

(b) the action is limited in time.

In particular security or crisis-management circumstances, the Commission may decide that intervention by means of the Rapid Reaction Mechanism is combined with ECHO action.

The RRM may be triggered when in the beneficiary countries concerned there occur situations of crisis or emerging crisis, situations posing a threat to law and order, the security and safety of individuals, situations threatening to escalate into armed conflict or to destabilise the country and where such situations are likely to jeopardise the beneficial effects of assistance and co-operation policies and programmes, their effectiveness and/or conditions for their proper implementation.

Each year the budgetary authority shall set an overall annual ceiling for the funding of interventions provided for under this Regulation, within the limits of the financial perspective. The Commission has indicated a probable budget of 20m euro in 2001 and 25m euro in 2002.

Turkey -Accession Partnership

The Council adopted a Regulation on assistance to Turkey in the framework of the pre-accession strategy, and in particular on the establishment of an Accession Partnership.

This Partnership, and in particular its intermediate objectives, should assist Turkey in preparing for membership within a framework of economic and social convergence and in developing its national programme for the taking up of the acquis as well as a relevant timetable for its implementation.

The Accession Partnership shall provide a single framework covering:

     the priorities, as defined in the analysis of the situation in Turkey, on which preparations for accession must concentrate in view of the political and economic criteria and the obligations incumbent upon a Member State of the European Union as defined by the European Council,

     the financial resources for assisting Turkey to implement the priorities identified during the pre-accession period.

In due course, the Council will define the principles, priorities, intermediate objectives and conditions contained in the Accession Partnership, as it will be submitted to Turkey, and, on the basis of these decisions, the programming of the financial resources granted in the framework of the Accession Partnership will be established.

It is recalled that the Heads of State and Government meeting at the European Council in Helsinki from 10 to 11 December 1999 :

    - reaffirmed the inclusive nature of the accession process, which now comprises 13 candidate States within a single framework;

    - stated that Turkey is a candidate State destined to join the Union on the basis of the same criteria applied to other candidate States and that building on the existing European strategy, Turkey, like other candidate States, will benefit from a pre-accession strategy to stimulate and support its reforms;

    - stated that an Accession Partnership will be drawn up for Turkey on the basis of previous European Council conclusions while containing priorities on which accession preparations must concentrate in the light of the political and economic criteria and the obligations of a Member State.

FRY - Specific restrictive measures directed against Mr Milosevic and persons associated with him

The General Affairs Council on 9 October decided to lift all sanctions imposed on the FRY after 1998, with the exception of the provisions affecting Slobodan Milosevic and those associated with him. Consequently, a first reduction of the number of persons affected by the remaining restrictive measures was decided by the Council on 10 November. These restrictive measures consist of a visa ban, a freeze of personal assets and a prohibition of any financial transaction with the persons involved.

In its conclusions of 22 January 2001, the Council welcomed the free and fair conditions in which the legislative elections in Serbia in December were held. Their outcome confirms the determination of the people of Serbia to continue the consolidation of democracy in their country.

As a further step in the development of the EU's relations with the FRY, the Council today decided to reduce the restrictive measures against FRY to target: the former President of the FRY, Slobodan Milosevic, his family, four indictees of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) figuring in the same indictment as Slobodan Milosevic (Milutinovic, Sainovic, Ojdanic and Stoljilkovic) and three former JNA-officers indicted by the ICTY for atrocities against civilians in Vukovar (Mrksic, Radic, Slivancanin).

Future revision of these restrictive measures will be made by the Council, as appropriate.

Association of overseas countries and territories

The Council adopted a decision extending Decision 91/482/EEC on the associations of the overseas countries and territories (OCTs) with the EU until 1 December 2001.

This decision is taken in order to avoid a legal vacuum as it was not possible to reach agreement on the new provisions governing this Association on the basis of the Commission's proposal of 27 November 2000 before the expiration date of the existing regime at the end of February 2001.

Bangladesh - Partnership and Development Agreement

The Council adopted a decision concerning the conclusion of the Co-operation Agreement between the European Community and the People's Republic of Bangladesh on partnership and development, signed in Brussels on 22 May 2000.

As the government of Bangladesh has already notified the European Community that from its side no further formalities were necessary, this Agreement will enter into force on the first day of the month following the date on which the Council's decision of today will have been notified to Bangladesh.

Relations with Russia - Kaliningrad

The Council welcomed the Commission communication of 17 January on the EU and Kaliningrad as providing a good basis for developing further EU co-operation with Russia and neighbouring countries in order to address specific problems related to the Kaliningrad region, regarding the movement of goods and people, energy supplies, fisheries, economic development, governance, democracy and the rule of law, environment and health, and agreed on the following procedural aspects :

    - to take note of the Presidency/Commission/Secretariat initial discussions on Kaliningrad in the context of the consultation process leading up to the Foreign Ministers' conference on Northern Dimension in Luxembourg on 9 April;

    - to instruct Working Parties on Eastern Europe and Central Asia to assume the overall responsibility in preparing the EU positions on Kaliningrad;

    - to instruct the Working Party on Central Europe to examine the relevant parts of the Communication, in particular with a view to identifying possibilities for further co-operation with Poland and Lithuania, and report back in due time before the Co-operation Council with Russia on 10 April 2001;

    - to note that the Presidency may, if necessary, ask also other Council bodies to contribute in developing an EU position on Kaliningrad;

    - to look forward to discussions with Russia on the situation of Kaliningrad within the framework of the PCA, i.e. in the relevant sub-committees and at the forthcoming fourth meeting of the Co-operation Council; and

    - to note the intention of the Presidency to revert to this issue at the level of the Council with a view to developing further EU positions.

Afghanistan - Additional restrictive measures against the Taliban

The Council adopted a Common Position concerning additional restrictive measures against the Taliban and amending Common Position 96/746/CFSP.

The objective of this Common Position is to tighten sanctions against the Taliban and persons associated with them, in the territory of Afghanistan under Taliban control. It provides for an arms embargo, a flight ban, as well as the freeze of funds and other financial assets held abroad by the Taliban. It also provides for the closure of all offices of the Taliban and of Ariana Afghan Airlines in the EU and a prohibition on the sale of the chemical acetic anhydride to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Civil protection

The Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, adopted the following Resolution on strengthening the capabilities of the European Union

in the field of civil protection :

"THE COUNCIL AND THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE MEMBER STATES, MEETING WITHIN THE COUNCIL,

    1. CONVINCED that the unending series of man-made, technological and natural disasters affecting the European Union and third countries calls for strengthening and making more efficient the capabilities of the European Union and the Member States in the field of civil protection.

    2. BELIEVING that, without prejudice to Member States' responsibilities, the Community should promote an adequate mix of preparedness and prevention, an effective collection and circulation of information and experience, a co-ordination of the means which exist at Member State and Community level and a co-operation between Member States, especially when disasters are on a scale beyond the intervention capacity of individual Member States.

    3. UNDERLINING the fact that the Community action programmes in the field of civil protection established by Council Decision 98/22/EC (1) and by Council Decision 1999/847/EC (2) contribute to a better use and integration of Member States resources and complement measures adopted in response to previous Resolutions of the Council and the Member States (3).

    4. CONSIDERING that it is appropriate to complement the previous Resolutions by this Resolution, taking into account recent developments, including those in the field of non-military crisis management in the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

    5. STRESS that the flexibility that has been built into the Community action programmes should facilitate the adjustment of actions envisaged at Community and Member States level to evolving priorities in the field of civil protection, inter alia through an improved integration of civil protection objectives in other policies and actions, such as the protection of the environment, and should enhance the role of civil protection assets for civilian aspects of crisis management.

    6. INFORMATION/EDUCATION/COMMUNICATION

HIGHLIGHT in this respect:

    (a) the Vade-mecum of civil protection in the European Union, which inter alia includes a description of national organisation of civil protection, relevant legal texts and methodology of emergency planning, while NOTING that it needs to be updated and complemented in several respects;

(b) the added value of the Community framework for contacts between national correspondents;

    © that increased use of advanced information and telecommunications systems is necessary to make available up-to-date information in relation to disasters;

    (d) the importance of developing initiatives such as civil-protection information campaigns and information, education and awareness-raising initiatives aimed at the public and in particular at young people to increase the level of self-protection of citizens;

    (e) the benefit of exchanging persons responsible for civil protection as part of training programmes, in particular in the course of simulation exercises, and facilitating the pooling of experience of those who work for civil protection;

    (f) that co-operation between schools and national training centres that are active in the field of civil protection should progress at a faster pace;

    (g) the value of assessing the experience in the voluntary sector of non-governmental and other private organisations involved in civil protection in order to make better use of their resources and to enhance their contribution to civil protection-related activities.

7. OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES AND INSTRUMENTS

    EMPHASISE:

      (a) the progress made regarding assistance arrangements between the Member States and civil protection organisations;

      (b) the value of the Community's operational manual listing national and Community points of contact, points of access to expert opinion on certain areas of intervention, as well as registers of the resources that are available in each Member State and the procedures and arrangements for making such resources available, which contribute to better co-ordination between Member States;

      © the value of the 24-hour operational service on a stand-by basis provided by the Commission and of arrangements with the Commission relating to the secondment of experts;

      (d) the usefulness of the common emergency phone number 112 established by Council Decision 91/396/EEC of 29 July 1991 on the introduction of a single European emergency call number (4);

      (e) the role of the Permanent Network of National Correspondents in ensuring the consistency of Community co-operation and in collecting information on the assistance available in each Member State in the event of a disaster;

      (f) the important role that General Directors of Civil Protection or their counterparts can play in setting key priorities and common objectives and in ensuring a high degree of co-ordination, in particular at their regular meetings.

8. INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

    (a) STRESSING that co-ordination of measures taken at international level, e.g. in the framework of the UN, OSCE and NATO, should be enhanced in order to rationalise the use of the resources involved in such measures; noting the intention of the Member States and the Commission to undertake steps with a view to avoiding duplication and to enhance the most efficient possible use of expertise.

    (b) NOTE that EFTA countries are participating in various activities under the Community action programme.

    © WELCOME the fact that the UN/ECE Convention on transboundary effects of industrial accidents entered into force on 19 April 2000.

    (d) INSIST on a prompt implementation of the Resolution of the Council and of the representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, of 9 December 1999 on co-operation with candidate Central and Eastern European Countries and Cyprus on civil protection (5), as regards in particular the exchange of information between them, including as regards operational manuals. CONSIDER that the same treatment should be given to the other countries that are candidates for accession to the European Union.

    (e) INVITE the Commission and Member States to continue the pilot project on civil protection undertaken in the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Strategy and to explore ways and means towards a strengthened co-operation under that strategy.

    (f) ALSO INVITE the Commission and Member States to explore ways and means to establish a similar action through a EUROBALTIC programme for Civil Protection co-operation in the Baltic and Barents region.

9. CIVIL PROTECTION RESOURCES IN THE FRAMEWORK OF CRISIS MANAGEMENT

    (a) NOTING that, when implementing the action plan for non-military crisis management outlined by the Helsinki European Council of December 1999, civil protection assets may have to be used and that, as a consequence, it should be ensured that inter-pillar coherence is aimed at.

    (b) WELCOME the priority given to civil protection in the study on concrete targets on civilian aspects of crisis management which was submitted to the Feira European Council on 19 and 20 June 2000.

    © NOTE the setting up by a Council Decision, adopted on 22 May 2000, of a Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management. (6)

    (d) RECOMMEND that civil protection resources or assets of Member States may be used in the framework of crisis management in support of the CFSP, following their examination by the competent bodies."

Court of Auditors - Special Report 12/2000

The Council adopted conclusions concerning Special Report No 12/200 from the Court of Auditors on the management by the Commission of European Union support for the development of human rights and democracy in third countries under Chapter B7-7 between 1994 and 1998 which has recommended certain changes in the Commission's management of the European initiative in this area.

European Economic Area - Decisions of Joint Committee

The Council approved on behalf of the EU two draft decisions of the EEA Joint Committee amending

    - Annex II - Technical regulations, standards, testing and certification - and Annex XI - Telecommunication Services - by adding recently adopted acquis in these fields (Directive 98/48 EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 July 1998 amending Directive 98/34/EC laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations) ;

    - Annex IX - Financial services - by adding recently adopted acquis in this field (Directive 2000/12/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 March 2000 relating to the taking up and pursuit of the business of credit institutions).

Co-operation and commercial relations between the EU and the industrialised countries of North America, the Far East and Australasia

The Council adopted a Regulation concerning the implementation of projects promoting co-operation and commercial relations between the EU and the industrialised countries of North America, the Far East and Australasia.

The Regulation aims in particular at establishing a single budget line for funding the activities relating to the promotion of co-operation and commercial relations vis-à-vis the United States, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand. These activities have until now been financed under a series of different budget lines.

Europe Agreements with Hungary and Czech Republic - Additional Protocols on industrial products - "PECA-agreements"

The Council adopted the Decisions on the signature and the conclusion of two additional Protocols to the Europe Agreements establishing an Association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and respectively the Czech Republic and Hungary, of the other part, on conformity assessment and acceptance of industrial products.

The signature of these two Protocols took place today, 26 February (see Press Release 6512/01 Presse 67).

Association Councils with the Baltic States

The Council established the European Union's position for the 4th meetings of the Association Councils to be held on 27 February

- with Estonia (see Press Release UE-EE 807/01 Presse 71),

- with Latvia (see Press Release UE-LV 855/01 Presse 72),

- with Lithuania (see Press Release UE-LT 907/01 Presse 73).

EU-Mexico Joint Council

The Council established the European Union's position for the 1st meeting of the EU-Mexico Joint Council, established by the Economic Partnership, Political co-ordination and Co-operation Agreement which entered into force on 1 October 2000, to be held on 27 February (see Press Release UE-MX 3856/01 Presse 74).

TRADE ISSUES

Relations with Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania - wines and spirits

The Council adopted a Regulation concerning the conclusion of Agreements in the form of Exchanges of Lettres between the European Community and the Republic of Bulgaria, the Republic of Hungary and Romania on reciprocal preferential trade concessions for certain wines and spirits, and amending Regulation (EC) No 933/95.

In 1993 the European Community concluded two Agreements with each of the above three countries, one on the reciprocal establishment of tariff quotas for certain wines, the other on the reciprocal protection and control of wine names. The tariff quota agreements which were initially due to expire on 31 December 1997 for Bulgaria and Romania and on 31 December 1998 for Hungary were finally extended until 31 December 2000.

In December 1998 the Council authorised the Commission to start negotiations with each of those countries for a new Agreement, in the form of an Additional Protocol to the Europe Agreement, to replace the two existing Agreements and the scope of which would be extended to include spirituous beverages. Those negotiations have now been completed. Pending the procedure for the adoption of the new protocols and so as not to interrupt the reciprocal preferential trade regime, the Commission has also negotiated, with the three countries in question, Agreements in the form of Exchanges of Letters aiming to implement already at this stage the trade concessions to be included in the protocols. The present Regulation concerns the conclusion of those Exchanges of Letters and also the internal implementing provisions necessary to put them into practice (adjustments to Regulation No 933/95).

Textiles - market access (Sri Lanka)

The Council decided on the signing, on behalf of the European Community, of an Agreement between the European Community and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on arrangements in the area of market access for textile and clothing products. It also authorised the provisional application of this agreement.

    The agreement provides that Sri Lanka will:

    - Bind its import tariffs for the textile and clothing sector within the WTO at the rates the European Union considers appropriate for developing countries save for some rare exceptions;

    - Reduce its tariffs to those new bound levels where they currently exceed them;

    - Undertake not to apply any tariffs in the sector higher than the current applied rates ("standstill") where the current applied rates in the sector are lower than the bindings.

The agreement provides that the European Community:

    - Will suspend the operation of the four categories of quantitative restrictions currently in force (Categories 6, 7, 8 and 21) following Sri Lanka's notification to the WTO of the agreed bound rates and its respect of the agreed rates;

    - Retains the right to re-apply the quota regime at the level applicable for the year in question in the event that Sri Lanka fails to abide either by the above commitments or by its non-tariff obligations set forth in the agreement.

The agreement further provides that certain categories of textile and clothing products from Sri Lanka to the European Community (being a wider range than the previous quotas) will be covered by a double checking system. It also places the Parties under the obligation not to introduce any non-tariff barriers for trade in the textile and clothing sector. Finally, the agreement provides for periodic consultations and for consultations on request on any of its provisions and further provides that the Parties will co-operate fully concerning any necessary notifications to be made to the WTO or any of its bodies.

Textiles - common rules for imports from third countries

The Council agreed to amending Regulation (EEC) No. 3030/93 on common rules for imports of certain textile products from third countries.

The amendments relate mainly to the following areas:

    (a) To allow the competent authorities to apply to dispose of the products within the Community subject to the opinion of the Member States.

    (b) The obligation of importers to inform the Member State authorities whether they have used import authorisations in full.

    (c) The comitology aspects of the Regulation (the need to be brought into line with Council Decision 1999/468/EC of 28 June 1999 laying down the procedures for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission).

(d) Electronic licensing in the form of paperless communication.

Textiles - trade in textile products (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

The Council agreed on the signature and the provisional application of the Agreement on trade in textile products between the European Community and Bosnia and Herzegovina initialled in Brussels on 24 November 2000

The agreement establishes a double-checking system (surveillance) on imports of those products currently under quotas as in Council Regulation (EC) No 517/94, as well as administrative co-operation provisions and a safeguard mechanism.

JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS

Schengen - Application of the acquis in the Nordic countries

The Council took note of a report from the Swedish Presidency which confirms that the Schengen acquis will be fully implemented in the Nordic countries as from 25 March 2001.

On 1 December 2000, the Council decided*(7) that as from 25 March 2001, the Schengen acquis shall apply to Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland in their relations between each other and the countries already applying Schengen. However, evaluation visits were to be carried out (according to a given mandate) in order to check whether the SIS functions and is applied correctly as well as to ascertain whether the Nordic airports and the ports in Denmark and Norway fulfil the necessary requirements. Pursuant to that decision the SIS was applied in the Nordic States as from 1 January 2001.

To prepare these reports, visits were organised to the SIS in January and to the air and sea borders in February. France has chaired the visiting committees.

Based on the findings made by the visiting committees to the Nordic countries it is evident that the SIS functions, that it will be applied correctly and that the external border controls at the Nordic airports and the seaports in Denmark and Norway will fulfil the necessary requirements by 25 March 2001; therefore, there is no reason to defer this date.

Furthermore, the Nordic States undertook to implement, in so far as possible, recommendations suggested by the visiting committees in order to further improve their application of the Schengen acquis.

The Nordic states will inform the Schengen Evaluation group of the concrete measures put in place to take into account the different recommendations formulated by the visiting committees. This information will be provided by the Nordic states either in stages or all together before 1 July 2001.

European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction - Work programme 2001-2003

The Council agreed an Opinion on the work programme of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction for 2001-2003 period.

In its Opinion, the Council, commending the intention of the work programme to achieve quality and a high degree of reliability of information as a first priority;

    1. Encourages the EMCDDA to continue or initiate work on the five priority areas set out in the annex to Council Regulation (ECC) No 302/93;

    2. Encourages progress in the implementation of the joint PHARE/EMCDDA programme aimed at gradually integrating the candidate countries into the European Information Network on Drugs and Drug Addiction (Reitox), co-ordinated by the EMCDDA;

    3. Requests that each of the EMCDDA's annual work programmes concretise and specify the orientations of the three-year programme, including staffing requirements for the Centre itself as well as the needs of the National Focal Points;

    4. Stresses the importance of appropriate integration of new tasks for the National Focal Points when deciding on the implementation of the work programme for the EMCDDA;

    5. Invites the Executive Director to add an executive summary in his proposal for a triennial work programme, which is reader friendly and clearly specifies objectives, activities and achievement indicators as well as time lines;

    6. Stresses the need to co-operate and co-ordinate closely between EMCDDA and the other institutions and bodies of the European Union as well as international/regional organisations in order to create synergy and avoid duplication of effort.

EDUCATION

Co-operation programme in higher education and training with the United States of America

The Council adopted the Decision concerning the conclusion of the Agreement signed at the EU-US summit on 18 December 2000 renewing the Agreement from 1995 establishing a co-operation programme in higher education and vocational education and training.

The objectives of the Co-operation Programme are in particular:

  • promote mutual understanding between the peoples of the European Community and the United States of America including broader knowledge of their languages, cultures and institutions;

  • improve the quality of human resource development, including the acquisition of skills required to meet the challenges of the global knowledge-based economy;

  • encourage an innovative and sustainable range of student-centred higher education and vocational education and training co-operative activities that have a durable impact;

  • improve the quality of Transatlantic student mobility by promoting transparency, mutual recognition of periods of study and training, and, where appropriate, portability of credits;

  • encourage the exchange of expertise in e-learning and open and distance learning and their effective use to broaden Programme impact;

  • promote or enhance partnerships among higher education and vocational education and training institutions, professional associations, public authorities, private sector and other associations;

  • reinforce a European Community and United States dimension to transatlantic co-operation in higher education and vocational education and training; and

  • complement relevant bilateral programmes between the Member States of the European Community and the United States of America as well as other European Community and United States programmes and initiatives.

Co-operation programme in higher education and training with Canada

The Council adopted the Decision concerning the conclusion of the Agreement signed at the EU-Canada summit on 19 December 2000 renewing the Agreement from 1995 establishing a co-operation programme in higher education and training.

The objectives of the Co-operation Programme are in particular:

  • promote closer understanding between the peoples of the European Community and Canada, including broader knowledge of their languages, cultures and institutions;

  • improve the quality of human resource development, including the acquisition of skills required to meet the challenges of the global knowledge-based economy;

  • encourage an innovative and sustainable range of student-centred higher education and training co-operative activities that have a durable impact;

  • improve the quality of transatlantic student mobility by promoting transparency, mutual recognition of qualifications and periods of study and training, and where appropriate, portability of credits;

  • encourage the exchange of expertise in e-learning and open and distance education and their effective use by project consortia to broaden Programme impact;

  • form or enhance partnerships among higher education and training institutions, professional associations, public authorities, private sector and other associations as appropriate;

  • reinforce a European Community and a Canadian value-added dimension to Transatlantic co-operation in higher education and training;

  • complement bilateral programmes between the Member States of the European Community and Canada as well as other European Community and Canadian programmes and initiatives.

APPOINTMENTS

Committee of the Regions

The Council adopted the decision appointing

    - Mr W. ZWAAN as a full member of the Committee of the Regions, in place of Mr A.G.J.M. ROMBOUTS, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 25 January 2002, and

    - Mr VERKERK as an alternate member of the Committee of the Regions, in place of Ms Mathilde VAN DEN BRINK, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 25 January 2002.

Economic and Social Committee

The Council adopted the decision appointing Mr Alfredo Manuel VIEIRA CORREIA as a member of the Economic and Social Committee, in place of Mr Manuel António ARAUJO DOS SANTOS, for the remainder of his term of office, which runs until 20 September 2002.

________________________

(1) OJ L 8, 14.1.1998, p. 20.

(2) OJ L 327, 21.12.1999, p. 53.

(3) Resolutions of:25 June 1987 on the introduction of Community co-operation on civil protection (OJ C 176, 4.7.1987, p. 1).13 February 1989 on the new developments in Community co-operation on civil protection (OJ C 44, 23.2.1989, p. 3).23 November 1990 on Community co-operation on civil protection (OJ C 315, 14.12.1990, p. 1).23 November 1990 on improving mutual aid between Member States in the event of a natural or man-made disaster (OJ C 315, 14.12.1990, p. 3).8 July 1991 on improving mutual aid in the event of a natural or technological disaster (OJ C 198, 27.7.1991, p. 1) .31 October 1994 on strengthening Community co-operation on civil protection (OJ C 313, 10.11.1994, p. 1).

(4)OJ L 217, 6.8.1991, p. 31.

(5) OJ C 373, 23.12.1999, p. 2.

(6) OJ L 127, 27.5.2000, p. 1.

(7)* Council decision 2000/777/EC


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