Brussels, 24 February 2003 6604/03 (Presse 52)
2487th Council meeting - EXTERNAL RELATIONS - Brussels, 24 February 2003
President : Mr Giorgos PAPANDREOU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic
* The 2488th session on General Affairs is the subject of a separate press release
(doc. 6605/03 Presse 53)
"WIDER EUROPE - NEW NEIGHBOUROOD" 5
WESTERN BALKANS - Council Conclusions 6
MIDDLE EAST 8
EU-RUSSIA RELATIONS 10
ANY OTHER BUSINESS 10
EU-OSCE COOPERATION 10
ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS
The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
"WIDER EUROPE - NEW NEIGHBOUROOD"
The Council discussed the "Wider Europe - New Neighbourhood" initiative as part of a reflection on the enlarged Union and its neighbours initiated by the Council in September last year.
In Copenhagen, the European Council, reviewing relations between the enlarged Union and its neighbours, underlined the EU's wish to enhance its relations with Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and the southern Mediterranean countries based on a long-term approach promoting democratic and economic reforms, sustainable development and trade.
The Council heard a presentation by Commissioner Patten and noted that a Communication by the Commission on "Wider Europe" would be available by the next meeting of the GAERC. It also looked forward to the enlarged meeting of the European Conference in Athens on 17 April 2003.
WESTERN BALKANS - Council Conclusions
The Council heard presentations by the Presidency, notably on the political dialogue meetings held in the morning with Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as by High Representative Solana and Commissioner Patten. After its discussion, it adopted the following conclusions:
"Serbia and Montenegro
The Council welcomed the adoption and proclamation of the Constitutional Charter and the Implementing Law. It called on the authorities in Belgrade and Podgorica to build up the new institutions within the fixed deadlines and to finalise the internal market and trade action plans by the end of March, which would allow further progress within the Stabilisation and Association Process.
The Council reiterated that Serbia and Montenegro, as well as all countries and parties in the region, must co-operate fully with ICTY. Full co-operation with ICTY is essential for further movement towards the EU.
Serbia and Montenegro/Kosovo
The Council noted that the transformation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia into Serbia and Montenegro has not affected the issue of Kosovo. It reaffirmed that UN Security Council Resolution 1244 remained valid in all its aspects. UNSCR 1244 remains the basis of the EU policy towards Kosovo.
The Council reiterated its full support for the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and UNMIK's "standards before status" policy. It urged Kosovo´s leaders once again to work in close co-operation with UNMIK and the international security presence (KFOR) for a better future for Kosovo and stability in the region. The Council welcomed the SRSG's intention to gradually transfer remaining competencies to the provisional institutions of self government (PISG) by the end of the year, except those reserved for the SRSG under UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The Council expected the PISG to prove themselves ready to take on these responsibilities.
The Council called on Belgrade and Pristina to initiate a dialogue on practical issues of mutual concern. Reiterating the importance of full respect of UNSCR 1244, it urged all parties, both in Belgrade and in Pristina, to refrain from any unilateral initiatives which were incompatible with the objective of a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo and may jeopardise stability and the normalisation process not only in Kosovo but in the entire region.
The Council welcomed the transfer to the Hague Tribunal of the first war crimes indictees in Kosovo, which underscored the determination of the international community to pursue justice throughout the Balkans. It congratulated ICTY, UNMIK and KFOR on the operation and invited the PISG and Kosovo politicians to continue to support ICTY by taking a responsible approach on co-operation with the Tribunal, which is an international obligation.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The Council welcomed the adoption by the Government of the Action Plans for further implementation of the Framework Agreement, as well as the support they received at the Party leader meeting on 14 February 2003. While reiterating its full support for the efforts underway, the Council encouraged the Government and all the Signatories of the Framework Agreement to ensure timely realisation of the Action Plans, thereby enabling further progress towards the EU.
Return of refugees and INTERNALLY displaced persons
The Council recalled the fundamental right of all refugees and IDPs to return to their place of origin and insisted that those who want to return be given a realistic possibility to do so. It also pointed out the utmost political importance of the return process for the stability of the states and of the region.
In view of the preparation of the forthcoming Thessaloniki Summit, the EU expects a clear commitment from the countries in the region to actively address the issue of return. In this context, the authorities are reminded of their responsibility to put in place appropriate security and legislative conditions for return. They must also allocate resources to ensure the sustainability of returns and that the more than one million persons still displaced throughout the region are included in any economic recovery programmes.
The Council called on the governments of the region to co-operate and do their utmost to resolve outstanding issues. A systematic regional exchange of information would facilitate the return process. The European Union remained committed to assisting them in their efforts, while the latter should realise that progress in this regard would contribute to their rapprochement with the EU. The Council will assess progress on the issue of return of refugees and IDPs during the annual review of the Stabilisation and Association Process."
Over lunch, Ministers discussed the Middle East, as well as Iraq, in the presence of the President of the Arab League, Mr Hammoud, and of the Secretary General of the Arab League, Mr Moussa. On 17 February, the European Council had underlined that the European Union would work with the Arab Countries and the League of Arab Nations.
On the Middle East, Ministers reaffirmed the importance of invigorating the peace process as well as their support for early implementation of the roadmap endorsed by the Quartet.
On Iraq, they assessed recent developments and the outlook for the coming days and reaffirmed that full cooperation by Iraq on disarmament in accordance with UNSCR 1441 was an urgent objective shared by all.
All agreed on the importance of renewing the intercultural dialogue/dialogue of civilisations.
The Council heard a report from High Representative Solana on the question of the envisaged take-over by the EU of the international military presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, following initial consultations on this issue, as mandated by the European Council in Copenhagen, with the BiH authorities, the High Representative for BiH/EU Special Representative, Paddy Ashdown, NATO and other international players. The European Council had indicated the Union's willingness to lead a military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina following SFOR. The report presented by the HR together with the Presidency underscores the need for the future mission to retain a robust mandate, the opportunity that an EU-led operation would offer in terms of an integrated EU approach towards the country (notably with the presence of the EU Police Mission in BiH) and the importance of close co-operation with NATO as well as with the United States. France and the UK also made a joint contribution on the issue.
Secondly, the Council assessed the state of play in the implementation of the "Berlin plus" permanent arrangements between the EU and NATO, on the basis of an overview given by the High Representative. It noted that the three main elements (assured access to NATO planning, presumption of availability of pre-identified NATO common assets and capabilities, and European command options including the role of DSACEUR) had been concluded.
Finally, the Council, on the basis of a briefing by High Representative Solana, took stock of progress achieved in preparations for the take-over by the EU of the military operation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It noted in particular the adoption of the Joint Action, the appointment of the EU Operation Commander and Force Commander as well as the initiatiion of the force generation and manning processes with all invited countries.
The Council discussed EU-Russia relations, ahead of the EU-Russia Summit scheduled to take place on 31 May in St Petersburg, and in the context of the EU Common Strategy on Russia, which is coming up for review next June.
The Common Strategy, which was adopted in June 1999, applies for an initial period of four years, after which it may be prolonged, reviewed and, if necessary adapted by the European Council on the recommendation of the Council.
During the Council discussion, the Presidency underlined that the question of the future of EU-Russia relations should be discussed at St Petersburg. The importance of making EU-Russia relations and instruments more effective and results-oriented was underlined. The upcoming entry into force of the PCA (Partnership and Cooperation Agreement)'s dispute-settlement mechanism was a step in this direction.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE
Gulf States Preparation of the EUGCC Joint Council
The Council approved the draft agenda for the 13th EUGulf Co-operation Council (GCC) Joint Council and ministerial meeting which will take place at Doha, Qatar, on 3 March.
The main items scheduled for the meeting are implementation of the EUGCC Co-operation Agreement, negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement, developments in Europe and the Gulf region and political issues of common interest, namely Iraq, the Middle East peace process, Iran, terrorism, human rights and weapons of mass destruction.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Yugoslavia Transit traffic through Austria Working structures on trade and traderelated matters
The Council approved a second draft reply for the Community in the exchange of letters concerning the signature and provisional application of an Agreement between the Community and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on the regulation, using a system of "ecopoints", of transit traffic from FYROM through Austria (doc. 11919/1/02 REV1).
Following signature of the Community's original letter on 29 October 2002, FYROM indicated, in a letter dated 12 December, its agreement with the content of that letter though in a slightly different form, restating its position regarding its constitutional name.
The Council also approved the position to be adopted by the Community within the EUFYROM Co-operation Council on modification of the working groups provided for under the Co-operation Agreement so as to better reflect the areas covered by the EUFYROM Interim Agreement on trade and traderelated matters (doc. 5685/03).
The Interim Agreement, which entered into force on 1 June 2001, assigns certain duties to the Co-operation Council, thus requiring modification of the working groups that assist it in its duties.
Poland Definition of rules of origin
The Council approved a draft Decision of the EUPoland Association Council on the definition of the concept of "originating products", with regard to the panEuropean system of cumulation of rules of origin, and methods of administrative cooperation (doc. UE-PL 1414/02).
The text is part of a series of proposals for amendment, by means of a consolidated text, of each of the protocols concluded by the Community with the associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the EFTA and EEA countries. The Association Council will adopt by the Decision by written procedure.
EU-NATO Agreement on Security of information
The Council adopted a decision on approving on behalf of the EU the conclusion of an Agreement between the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on the security of information.
4th Fisheries Protocol between the EC, the Government of Denmark and the Home Rule Government of Greenland - Council conclusions
"The Council welcomes the Commission's Communication on the midterm review of the Fourth Fisheries Protocol between the EC, the Government of Denmark and the Home Rule Government of Greenland and broadly shares the general analysis outlined therein. The Council agrees that there is a need to broaden and strengthen the future relations between the EU and Greenland taking into account the importance of fisheries and the structural development problems in Greenland.
The Council expresses its commitment to base the future relationship of the EU with Greenland after 2006 on a comprehensive partnership for sustainable development which will include a specific fisheries agreement, negotiated according to the general rules and principles for such agreements. The Council is of the view that within the next financial framework of the European Union, and bearing in mind the needs of all the OCTs, future financial commitments should be orientated to their present level, while taking into account other prevailing circumstances and a fair balance of mutual interests - notably the development needs of Greenland and the needs of the EC for continued access to fish stocks available in Greenland waters on a sustainable basis - as well as financial contributions from other parties. This is without prejudice to the next Financial Perspectives of the EU.
The Council requests the Commission to implement its communication by producing concrete proposals on the basis of these conclusions at least one year before the expiry of the Fourth Fisheries Protocol.
The negotiations for the midterm review should be conducted with the aim of streamlining the Fourth Protocol, in order to improve the utilisation of fishing possibilities without prejudice to the principle of relative stability. In the framework of the midterm review, the Commission will do an economic and quantitative analysis of realistic fishing opportunities, as well as an analysis of the financial contribution to sustainable development measures in Greenland. The review will take into account the conclusions of this analysis as well as the financial and legal consequences of various alternatives.
With a view to making the use of the financial compensation during the remaining period of the present Fisheries Protocol more transparent, the financial contribution for sustainable development measures in Greenland will be implemented through a budgetary support approach.
The Council authorises the Commission to conduct these negotiations in accordance with the above approach, in consultation with a special committee appointed by the Council to assist it in this task and within the framework of such directives as the Council may issue to it.
The Council notes that the Danish authorities and the competent Greenland authorities have agreed to the above approach."
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS
Mandate for the Commission to negotiate an Agreement on civil liability concerning the "Convention on Water Protection" and the "Convention on Industrial Accidents"
The Council decided to authorise the Commission to open negotiations for an agreement on civil liability for damage resulting for cases falling under the scope of two Conventions: the 1992 "Water Protection Convention" and the 1992 "Industrial Accidents Convention".
It is recalled that the European Community is a contracting party to both Conventions.
It is worth noting that, under the auspices of the United Nations, the governing bodies of both Conventions decided, in view of the shortcomings of the existing regimes on civil liability, that an inter-governmental negotiation process should be entered into aimed at adopting an agreement on civil liability for trans-boundary damage caused by hazardous activities. The draft agreement provides for adequate and prompt compensation for damages resulting from the trans-boundary effects of industrial accidents occurring in trans-boundary waters among the Parties to the agreement. The draft agreement intends to cover traditional damage (personal and property damage) as well as environmental damage.
(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.