Brussels, 17 November 2003
14486/03 (Presse 319)
2540th Council meeting - General Affairs* - Brussels, 17 November 2003
* The 2541th meeting on External Relations is the subject of a separate press release
(14500/03 Presse 321)
COMMISSION - Public Debate 6
progress of work in other council configurations 6
preparation of the european council on 12 and 13 DECEMber 6
ENLARGEMENT - Council Conclusions 7
ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE
european security and defence policy
European Economic Area
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS
The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
The Governments of the Acceding States were represented as follows:
COMMISSION - Public Debate
The Council took note of the presentation by the Commission of its legislative and work programme for 2004, and held a brief policy debate.
The 2004 programme, the last of the present Commission before its renewal next year, announces relatively few new proposals. The central priority is to complete accession to the European Union of the ten new Member States and to shape the future direction of the enlarged EU, including preparations for the new budgetary perspective. Two further priorities are stability developing the EU's new neighbourhood policy and sustainable growth in the context of the economic reform agenda set by the European Council at Lisbon in March 2000.
progress of work in other council configurations
The Council took note of a report from the Presidency on work under way in the Council's other configurations, covering meetings held since the last report on 13 October.
The Presidency's report highlights the general approaches agreed on by the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council on ship and port facility security and on minimum safety requirements for tunnels, as well as the agreement reached by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on regulation of the Western Waters. The report underscores progress made by the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council on coordination of social security systems and the general approach on the introduction of a European Health Insurance Card. It also highlights the agreement reached by the Justice and Home Affairs Council on residence permits for thirdcountry nationals that have been victims of trafficking.
preparation of the european council on 12 and 13 DECEMber
The Council examined an annotated draft agenda prepared by the Presidency for the European Council meeting to be held on 12 and 13 December in Brussels (14774/03). It will prepare the European Council in greater detail at its meeting on 8 and 9 December, on the basis of an updated version of the annotated draft agenda.
The document sets out the main items to be addressed, namely:
Work on these items is due to be carried out in the various Council configurations concerned, and the Presidency will draw on this when fleshing out the elements for the European Council conclusions.
ENLARGEMENT - Council Conclusions
The Council took note of the presentation by the Commission of its monitoring reports on the Accession States' preparations for membership of the European Union and its strategy paper and regular reports on progress by Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey towards accession.
The Council adopted the following conclusions:
"The Council welcomes the presentation by the Commission of the comprehensive monitoring report on the state of preparedness of the ten acceding States as well as the individual country reports in line with European Council conclusions, and acknowledges their high quality. The Council shares the analysis and the main conclusions drawn by the Commission in these documents.
The Council notes with satisfaction the substantial and intensive work undertaken by the Commission and the Member States during the monitoring process. This exercise is proving its worth in guiding the acceding States in their efforts to assume their responsibilities as members of the Union and in giving the necessary assurance to the Member States.
The Council commends the progress achieved by the acceding States in reaching a high level of alignment in most areas of the acquis which demonstrates their commitment to EU membership. Nonetheless, and in view of the short period remaining until accession, further enhanced efforts are still required in certain areas and there are some specific issues of serious concern as identified in the Commission's reports. The Council therefore reiterates the high importance it attaches to the smooth functioning of all EU policies upon and after accession, including the proper functioning of the internal market and of the area of freedom, security and justice, which is essential for the successful completion of the enlargement process. Achieving this goal will allow citizens throughout Europe to reap the full benefits of membership. It will also allow economic operators to take full advantage of the economic opportunities of the enlarged Union, as well as provide a welcome boost to the European economy.
The Council therefore urges the acceding States as a matter of priority to tackle and effectively resolve the matters outstanding prior to accession. The Union will continue to assist the acceding States in their efforts within the existing framework, using all available tools and financial assistance to target the areas identified.
Monitoring is an ongoing exercise and the Council notes that the Commission, taking full advantage of the expertise of the Member States, will continue to follow the acceding States' progress closely using all the means at its disposal to ensure the proper implementation of the Union's rules and policies. Taking into account the Commission's role to safeguard the smooth functioning of all EU policies upon and after accession, the Council notes the Commission's determination to take, wherever necessary, all appropriate measures for this purpose. Furthermore, the Council takes note of the Commission's intention to keep the Council fully and regularly informed on any remaining concerns and on the appropriate measures that it will take in this regard."
ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE
NOTE: The acceding countries, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, align themselves on the conclusions on: EU-OSCE cooperation, Georgia, Nigeria and the declaration on the attacks in Turkey.
european security and defence policy
EU-OSCE cooperation in conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation - Council Conclusions
The Council adopted the following Conclusions:
1. The Council recognises that, although different in structure and purpose, the EU and the OSCE share the same principles and values, as well as important responsibilities in conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation, the promotion of democracy and human rights and institution building. All EU Member States are also OSCE participating states; from 2004 EU Member States will make up 25 of the OSCE's 55 participating states. Both organisations are united in the recognition of the primary role of the United Nations Security Council in matters of international peace and security.
2. The Council acknowledges the role of the OSCE as a valuable instrument for the promotion of peace and comprehensive security in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok. The Council recognises, moreover, the relevance of the inclusive, pan-European and transatlantic partnership and the importance of the OSCE's consensus-based "modus operandi" for the promotion of peace and stability in the region. The OSCE has important assets based on its valuable acquis, including its field presences, which assist the participating states in fulfilling their commitments, and institutions.
3. These particular features make the OSCE an important partner for the EU. In accordance with the EU programme for prevention of violent conflicts (2001), and in the spirit of the OSCE “Platform for co-operative security”, the Council affirms its determination to continue enhancing its relationship with the OSCE with a view to further developing the existing co-operation between the EU and the OSCE. Co-operation should take into account the different nature of the EU and the OSCE.
4. Co-ordination between the EU and the OSCE should also be based on the principle of avoiding duplication and identifying comparative advantages and added value, leading to effective complementarity. Moreover, co-ordination should develop as a process in the light of changing needs within the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, including European Security and Defence Policy, as well as within the OSCE.
Specific areas of co-operation
5. EU-OSCE co-operation should encompass the politico-military, economic and environmental and human dimensions, which characterise both the EU and the OSCE, as well as the specific tasks of conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. In particular:
(i) Enhanced co-operation should include: exchange of information and analyses, co-operation on fact finding missions, co-ordination of diplomatic activity and statements, including consultations between special representatives, training and in-field co-ordination.
(ii) Mutually reinforcing initiatives could include inter alia:
- possible contribution by the EU to the OSCE's operational efforts in crisis management
- joint and/or co-ordinated programmes on post-conflict rehabilitation
- EU crisis management operations following a request from the OSCE
Modalities for EU-OSCE co-operation
6. The following modalities regarding regular contacts and meetings between the relevant EU and OSCE bodies could provide a basis for intensified co-operation, facilitating guidance, continuity and coherence of EU and OSCE activities:
- During each Presidency, a meeting should take place between the EU troika, the OSCE troika and the OSCE Secretary General.
- At the outset of each EU Presidency, the Presidency will address the Permanent Council of the OSCE.
- Invitations, as appropriate, of representatives of the CiO, the OSCE Secretary General, heads of OSCE field presences and heads of OSCE institutions to informal meetings with the PSC during each Presidency.
- Visits by the EU troika (at PSC level) to Vienna for meetings with the OSCE troika, EU Permanent Representatives to the OSCE and third countries, as appropriate.
- Briefings by the Secretary-General/High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Commissioner for external relations to the Permanent Council in Vienna, including meetings with the HoMs in Vienna, as and when deemed necessary.
- Continued contacts between the Secretary-General/High Representative, the Commissioner for external relations and the OSCE CiO and Secretary General, as and when appropriate.
- Co-ordination among the EU Member States' representations to the OSCE and the European Commission delegation in Vienna and co-ordination between them and the EU institutions and bodies in Brussels in order to facilitate synergies.
- Invite, as appropriate, representatives of the OSCE Secretary General and Chairmanship in
Office, Heads of Mission and Heads of OSCE institutions to informal meetings with relevant working groups.
EU Member States' permanent representatives to the OSCE in Vienna
The EU permanent representatives in Vienna should maintain day-to-day contact between the European Union and the OSCE including the institutions co-ordinating with each other and with EU institutions and bodies in Brussels.
Co-operation in the field between EU Special Representatives , heads of EU crisis management operations, EU Member States' embassies, European Commission delegations, OSCE field presences and special representatives.
Staff-to staff level
Staff-to-staff contacts at all levels between the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, the
European Commission services and the OSCE Secretariat and other OSCE institutions.
7. In the political dialogue with OSCE partners, systematically use opportunities for furthering EU
policies and programmes on OSCE-related questions, particularly those enshrined in EU agreements with the partners in question.
8. On norm setting, take account of OSCE acquis with respect to standards, notably on democracy
and human rights.
9. The Council requests the Presidency, assisted by the Secretary General/High Representative and in full association with the Commission, to implement these general guidelines in coordination with the OSCE. The Presidency shall in particular ensure close coordination between the relevant Council Working Parties and between the EU Member States' permanent representatives to the OSCE. As regards implementation of these guidelines in Vienna, a Council Secretariat liaison officer could be posted to Vienna in keeping with the available resources, so as to assist the Presidency there, facilitate communication with the Council Secretariat in Brussels and further enhance co-operation and synergy between the EU and the OSCE.
10. The Council requests the PSC to monitor the implementation of these guidelines and to identify further potential cooperation areas and priorities for EU-OSCE cooperation. It further requests the PSC to closely monitor emerging or potential crises within the OSCE's areas of activity, and to examine possible EU contributions to relevant OSCE mechanisms already in place.
11. The Council agrees that the Presidency will convey the content of these Council conclusions to
the Chairman in Office of the OSCE and the OSCE Secretary-General."
EUPOL "Proxima" - Third State Participation - Council Conclusions
The Council adopted the following Conclusions:
"The Council decided on 29 September 2003 to establish a European Union Police Mission (EUPOL "Proxima") in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Joint Action 2003/681/CFSP).
In addition to the Acceding States which are already invited as set out in the Joint Action, the Council decided to also invite the following third States to make offers of contribution to EUPOL "Proxima": candidate countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey), non-EU European NATO Members (Norway and Iceland in addition to Turkey), potential partners (Canada, Russia and Ukraine), Switzerland and the United States."
Appointment of the Director-General of the EU Military Staff
The Council decided to appoint Lieutenant General Jean-Paul PERRUCHE, (France), as Director-General of the European Union Military Staff as from 1 March 2004, as the term of office of Lieutenant General Rainer SCHUWIRTH expires on 29 February 2004.
Turkey Terrorist attacks against two synagogues in Istanbul - Council Declaration
"The Council strongly condemns the heinous terrorist attacks perpetrated on 15 November against two synagogues in Istanbul, killing more than 20 innocent people. It expresses its solidarity with the Government and the people of Turkey and sends its condolences to the families of the victims.
The Council stressed that terrorism and anti-semitism must be fought by the whole international community.
The EU remains committed to counter all forms of anti-semitism and religious intolerance."
EU Special Representatives: Guidelines on appointment, mandate and financing
The Council adopted revised guidelines on the appointing procedure, mandate and financing for EU Special Representatives.
The EU Special Representatives are an important instrument of the Common Foreign and Security Policy with the aim of increasing the EU's capacity to react quickly to emerging conflicts. The revised guidelines provide for the integral financing of the EUSRs through the CFSP budget in order to create a solid basis for funding while allowing optimal flexibility and a high degree of responsiveness to evolving needs on the ground.
Georgia - Council Conclusions
The Council adopted the following Conclusions:
"The Council examined the situation in Georgia following the parliamentary elections held on 2 November 2003.
It recalled the statement of the Presidency on behalf of the EU of 14 November 2003 on the conduct of these elections.
The Council emphasised the importance of stability in Georgia and in the region and urged all parties concerned to respect the rule of law and to resort only to peaceful and democratic means in seeking to resolve political differences. It stressed the need for constructive dialogue between the government and the opposition to prevent a destabilisation of the country and to agree on the way forward. It also recalled the readiness of the EU to assist the Georgian authorities in implementing political and economic reform.
The Council will follow closely the situation and the final outcome of elections. It asked the High Representative, supported by the EU Special Representative for the region, to bring the EU concerns to the attention of the political leaders in Georgia and to examine with them the possible contribution of the EU. It also stressed the need to address the situation in Georgia at the forthcoming OSCE Ministerial meeting in Maastricht."
Small arms and light weapons South East Europe, Cambodia
adopted a Decision extending and amending Decision 2002/842/CFSP on the implementation of Joint Action 2002/589 regarding the EU's contribution to combating the destabilising accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons in South East Europe.
adopted a Decision extending and amending Decision 1999/730/CFSP on the implementation of Joint Action 1999/34 regarding the EU's contribution to combating the destabilising accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons in Cambodia.
approved a Third Annual Report on the implementation of Joint Action 2002/589/CFSP on the EU's contribution to combating the destabilising accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons and the EU Programme on illicit trafficking of Conventional Arms. (13657/03)
Joint Action 2002/589/CFSP relates to action proposed by the EU to assist countries requesting support for controlling or eliminating surplus small arms on their territories. Adopted in July 2002, if repealed and extended the scope of Joint Action 1999/34/CFSP to include ammunitions.
Relations with Nigeria - Council Conclusions
The Council adopted the following Conclusions:
"1. The Council welcomes the achievements of the Nigerian authorities to date to consolidate democracy and advance socio-economic development. It encourages Nigeria to maintain its commitment to progress in areas where it still faces considerable challenges, in particular in the areas of security and human rights, economic reform including fiscal reform and privatisation, implementation and consolidation of electoral and constitutional reforms, as well as governance and public sector reform.
2. The EU shall maintain a constructive and regular political dialogue with Nigeria as well as efficient development cooperation. The dialogue shall primarily be held with the Federal Government but could also involve civil society as appropriate and, in agreement with the Federal Government, State Governments. It will encompass all matters of mutual concern. To ensure continuity, the primary responsibility for conducting the dialogue on behalf of the EU will be assigned to the EU Heads of Mission in Nigeria. High level contacts shall be pursued on a regular basis.
3. The EU intends to support Nigeria in its efforts to consolidate democracy and advance socio-economic development. To this end, the EU will pursue a consistent and coherent approach towards Nigeria, covering policies within the political, economic, trade and development fields, with a view to supporting and encouraging Nigeria's own processes of:
(a) consolidating democracy and respect for human rights;
(b) reducing poverty and achieving sustainable institutional reform, social and economic development;
(c) enhancing its capacity to contribute to regional integration, peace, security, development and good governance;
(d) strengthening the electoral process, taking into account the EUEOM recommendations concerning the 2003 elections, and the subsequent EU Presidency declaration and Parliamentary Resolution.
4. The EU considers the following as the key areas for future EU support:
(a) development of a democratic culture:
this includes respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights and promotion of equality, regardless of social and ethnic origin, gender and religion, in accordance with Nigeria's international human rights obligations. This democratic culture shall be nurtured, inter alia, through:
broad participation in the political process and increased public accountability, fostering a climate of free and inclusive debate, support to civil society, support to processes of reconciliation related to human rights violations and conflict resolution, the respect of national laws and international norms and conventions, strengthening the protection of women's rights at federal and state level.
(b) institutional capacity-building through:
constitutional review process to help resolve serious inconsistencies and contradictions; reform of the electoral system to address the deficiencies observed in the 2003 elections and to strengthen the democratic process in particular at state level in view of future elections; good governance and enhanced and careful management of Nigeria's own resources; budget and public expenditure management, review of public services and the elimination of waste through improved management of public resources and rationalisation; education system reform and professional training; safety, security and access to justice for all through reform of police, judiciary and penal systems; re-professionalisation of the military and disbanding of paramilitary groups; support to Nigerian capacity to analyse, anticipate and take preventive measures in respect of internal conflicts, and to better manage conflict and post conflict situations.
(c) poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) and development cooperation with the overall aim of poverty reduction:
the EU will encourage and work with the Nigerian authorities to help develop a coherent and comprehensive PRSP, through a process inclusive of civil society. The PRSP, and its subsequent implementation, is an important framework for sustainable achievements in poverty reduction. Development cooperation will be guided by Nigerian priorities, will be poverty-oriented and will involve close-led donor coordination, broad participation, accountability and transparency.
(d) economic growth and development:
the EU will continue to encourage the Nigerian authorities to take action, where appropriate within a benchmarking process to be agreed upon:
- to improve the transparency, efficiency and quality of the public services sector;
- to pursue comprehensive and thorough economic and administrative policy reform measures;
- to create a business and investment-friendly environment including combating the problem of widespread corruption.
The EU recognises its responsibility as well as the role the private sector can play in this area, taking into account relevant EU instruments as well as the OECD Convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions.
(e) strengthening Nigerian capacity to contribute to regional integration, conflict prevention management and resolution in West Africa:
the EU shall develop dialogue and experience-sharing with Nigeria on regional issues of common interest (inter alia, crises and political and economic integration). Within the framework of its policy on conflict prevention, management and resolution in Africa, the EU will support and encourage strengthened Nigerian peace-keeping capacities including its ability to contribute to ECOWAS's activities in peacekeeping.
5. Finally the EU stresses the importance of encouraging:
(a) a broad involvement of public authorities and civil society in the partnership between the EU and Nigeria;
(b) the building of civil society networks of non-state actors committed to the processes of democracy and development in Nigeria, both within the EU and Nigeria respectively and between the EU and Nigeria.
6. In implementing such policies, the EU will cooperate closely with the United Nations, G8, NEPAD, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the international financial institutions and other interested parties."
Fiji Resumption of full cooperation
The Council agreed on the text of a draft letter to be sent to the President of the Republic of Fiji, indicating that the EU is now ready to sign the National Indicative Programme 20022007 for aid to Fiji under the European Development Fund. Financing of aid to Fiji was suspended following a coup d'état in May 2000.
In September 2001, the Presidency issued a declaration welcoming the holding of free elections in Fiji, and in November 2001 addressed a letter to the President of Fiji stating that the EU was awaiting the result of a Supreme Court ruling on the legitimacy of the government. The court's decision was forthcoming on 18 July 2003 and the government has taken action to follow that ruling.
EuroMediterranean Partnership Preparation of ministerial meetings
The Council approved:
guidelines on the common position to be taken by the European Union on the draft conclusions for the EuroMediterranean Ministerial Conference on Agriculture on 27 November in Venice;
the common position to be taken by the EU on the draft declaration for the EuroMediterranean Conference on Energy on 1 and 2 December in Rome.
guidelines on the position to be taken by the EU at the EuroMediterranean meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs on 2 and 3 December in Naples.
Monaco Medicines, cosmetics and medical devices
The Council adopted a Decision approving an Agreement providing for application of Community acts on medicinal products for human and veterinary use, cosmetic products and medical devices on the territory of the Principality of Monaco.
Private sector in developing countries: support for the business sector - Council Conclusions
The Council adopted the following Conclusions:
"RECALLING that according to the Statement by the Council and the Commission on the European Community's Development Policy of 10 November 2000, support for macro-economic policies and promotion of equitable access to social services is one of the areas on which the activities of the Community need to be refocused in order to maximise the impact of Community development policy in poverty eradication;
MINDFUL of the importance of the private sector as a key element in the development process and the implementation of successful reform of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) in relation to their contribution to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in terms of income generation, employment and the supply of basic services, which are of the greatest significance for development, as well as of the role that the mobilisation of local resources should play in the financing of SMEs;
RECOGNISING that the Union's political and financial weight enables it to play a major role in improving the macro-economic framework and promoting an environment conducive to the sustainable development of the private sector in the partner countries; a successful policy in these areas is a decisive factor in ensuring pro-poor growth leading to effective poverty reduction, efficient local production and access to basic social services, as well as in encouraging the development of an investment-friendly environment;
ACKNOWLEDGING that the EC has long been involved in supporting the development of the private sector, inter alia through the Centre for the Development of Enterprise (CDE), as well as in funding and reforming SOE in developing and transition countries under different schemes and considering that in specific cases the EC has also supported the private sector and SOE reform, either directly or indirectly;
Support for the Development of the Business Sector in Developing Countries
AGREES that there is a need to re-focus Community activities in support of private sector development (PSD) as well as to consider a more effective, flexible and decentralized modus operandi; to this end,
WELCOMES the Commission Communication on support for the development of the business sector according to which the Commission keeps control, in close coordination with partner countries, of policy, programming and project design, monitoring and evaluation while entrusting implementation and management of financial instruments to intermediaries.
SUPPORTS the Commission's proposal to simplify, rationalize and streamline the management of budget lines and financing facilities in support of PSD in third partner countries.
RECOGNIZES the importance of enhancing policy dialogue with partner countries and other development actors focusing on market regulation and liberalization, trade and regional integration and sector reforms which are consistent with the long term development of the private sector and, when appropriate, with the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers process;
WELCOMES the intention of the Commission to proceed on the path of rationalization and harmonisation in the use of the available instruments in order to have a coherent approach towards the different regions and countries, with a sufficient degree of flexibility to take into account the specificity and degree of development of each region/country;
TAKES NOTE of the increasingly active role that could be played by the financial intermediaries such as the World Bank, EBRD, European Investment Bank (EIB), regional development banks and other local and international financial institutions in the mobilization of the Community's financial resources in favour of SMEs;
UNDERLINES the importance of the relation between business sector development and pro-poor growth, taking into consideration the aspects of economic growth in general, the distribution of resources and assets, and the direct inclusion of poor women and men in economic activities contributing to their employment and income;
CONSIDERS that pooling resources in public/private partnerships could be further explored to promote further national and international investment flows and modernise the commercial and financial sector in developing countries with positive implications in terms of income generation, trade opportunities and employment;
INVITES the Commission to pursue its harmonisation efforts with the Member States and other key donors in order to enhance complementarity and coordination in the aid delivery to the private sector and to pool scarce financial resources; in particular, the Commission should play a significant role in enhancing coordination and monitoring of the implementation of joint programs with Member States, international institutions, private investors and local financial intermediaries in order to avoid duplicating the set-up and implementation activities of other effective multilateral players in this field; and
INVITES the Commission to pursue further work on:
the future role of financial intermediaries;
strategic partnerships with other multilateral institutions and Member States;
the analysis of foreign direct investments undertaken by the main international institutions and national research bodies;
governance issues referring to PSD (corporate social and environmental responsibility, role of multinational corporations, etc);
the introduction of the new approach on PSD in the course of the programming cycle (Mid Term Review of the Country Strategy Papers, National Indicative Programmes, etc.) when appropriate;
the involvement and support of civil society in PSD in third partner countries;
improving and enhancing efficiency in the coordination between the Community and its Member States as regards PSD; and
the reorganization of the Community's Information networks, with a view to providing SMEs, local authorities and the general public with a comprehensive set of information on PSD opportunities in third partner countries.
Reform of State-Owned Enterprises in Developing Countries
RECOGNISING that in the past the reform of SOE had not always produced the expected results in term of transparency, sound financial management and efficient and affordable provision of goods and reliable services to the people and sustainable development,
CONSIDERING that the European Union should take a neutral stance on the ownership of public utilities, notwithstanding the general interest that should be attached to the universal provision of basic services by these utilities,
WELCOMES the Commission Communication on the Reform of SOE in Developing Countries which underlines the conditions for a successful programme;
AGREES that the difficulties encountered by privatisation operations in developing countries require that alternative options to the simple outright divestiture should be considered in the EU support to public sector reforms including, when appropriate, by promoting large public-private partnership to provide basic services;
STRESSES the importance of the impact of SOE reform, in particular of those supplying public utilities, on poverty reduction by tackling issues such as access, affordability and quality, given the extremely narrow reach of existing coverage of distribution networks, the low potential and immaturity of markets in specific areas and sectors and the poor quality of service, particularly in low-income areas of developing countries;
RECALLS the fundamental need for transparent and accountable mechanisms for public utilities; and
ACKNOWLEDGES the comprehensive and individual experience of each Member State in reforming and privatising SOE, including public utility companies.
Therefore, THE COUNCIL
SUPPORTS the Commission in pursuing a closer dialogue with partner countries, Member States, the Bretton Woods Institutions and other relevant development partners on the reforms of SOE taking into account their contribution in terms of poverty eradication and attainment of the MDGs;
INVITES the Commission to play an active role, in close collaboration with Member States, in the discussions to be held at country level on the objectives of such reforms, including the fundamental need for transparency. This would entail the identification and assessment of reform options, the sequencing issues, the requirements of post-reform regulation and monitoring as well as the need to address employment, gender, social and environmental implications in a consistent and integrated way; and
URGES the Commission to enhance its capacity in order to provide high-quality and timely technical assistance and capacity building to governments for the key stages of SOE reforms in consultation with Member States as well as to mobilise the appropriate development policy instruments to back its implementation.
In order to ensure a proper follow-up of its communications on PSD and SOE reforms, THE COUNCIL INVITES the Commission to monitor the progress of their implementation and to report back in the Annual Report on EC assistance to third countries."
European Development Fund Contributions for 2003 Special report/infrastructure work
The Council adopted a Decision fixing the third instalment of 2003 contributions to be paid by the Member States to the European Development Fund.
The Council also adopted the following conclusions:
welcomes Special Report No 8/2003 of the Court of Auditors on the execution of infrastructure works financed by the EDF, which highlights the cause of the problems that have beset certain works contracts in order to frame solutions for improving the methods used;
acknowledges the need to improve supervision of the implementation of works contracts financed by the EDF and to reduce the extent of the divergences that were found between contracts and their actual implementation;
welcomes the fact that the Commission agrees to a great extent with the opinion of the Court of Auditors and that it has already started to take steps to implement the Court's recommendations;
considering the importance that the Member States attach to evaluation of the implementation of infrastructure works, encourages the Court of Auditors to carry out a further evaluation within two to three years;
recommends that the Commission should:
* given the important role of the ACP countries' authorities in managing the implementation of projects, reinforce the support that it provides to ACP countries at the stage where contracts are being drawn up, and subsequently at the stage where their execution is being monitored;
* also increase support to ACP countries to facilitate the introduction of measures to maintain infrastructures after completion;
* endeavour to improve the quality control of preparatory studies and ensure that consultants are held financially liable by means of closer supervision and better monitoring by technical services;
* endeavour to improve the technical quality of studies by adopting more precise terms of reference."
European Economic Area
The Council adopted a Decision establishing the Community position for incorporating the Commission Directive 2002/25/EC of 5 March 2002 amending Council Directive 98/18/EC on safety rules and standards for passenger ships, into the European Economic Area Agreement.
The Decision allows Norway to maintain its existing regulation that requires that fixed local application fire-fighting systems to be fitted on any passenger vessels having machinery spaces above 500m3 in gross volume, irrespective of the number of passengers the vessels are classified to carry. The regulation is only applicable to Norwegian flagged vessels engaged in national traffic.
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS
Bans on access to venues of football matches with an international dimension
The Council adopted a Resolution on the use by Member States of bans on access to venues of football matches with an international dimension.
Nuclear energy agreement with Russia
The Council adopted a Decision authorising the Commission to negotiate a Cooperation Agreement between the European Atomic Energy Community and the Russian Federation in the field of trade in nuclear materials. It will take account of the new conditions on the market in the enlarged Union. It will also have to protect the interests of European consumers and maintain the viability of the European industries concerned.
Committee of the Regions
The Council adopted Decisions appointing:
(1) ?Where declarations, conclusions or resolutions have been formally adopted by the Council, this is indicated in the heading for the item concerned and the text is placed between quotation marks.?The documents whose references are given in the text are available on the Council's Internet site HYPERLINK "http://register.consilium.europa.eu/scripts/utfregisterDir/WebDriver.exe?MIval=advanced&MIlang=EN&fc=REGAISEN&srm=5&ssf=&mt=128&md=100"http://consilium.europa.eu.?Acts adopted with statements for the Council minutes which may be released to the public are indicated by an asterisk; these statements are available on the above mentioned Council Internet site or may be obtained from the Press Office.