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C/99/146

Brussels, 17 May 1999

8016/99 (Presse 146)

2177th Council meeting

- GENERAL AFFAIRS -

Brussels, 17 May 1999

Presidents: Mr Joschka FISCHER

Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Federal Chancellor of Germany

Mr Günter VERHEUGEN

Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany

CONTENTS

PARTICIPANTS

ITEMs DEBATED

For further information call 285.87.04, 285.81.11

PARTICIPANTS

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

Belgium:

Mr Erik DERYCKEMinister for Foreign Affairs
Denmark:
Mr Niels HELVEG PETERSEN

Mr Friis Arne PETERSEN

Minister for Foreign Affairs

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Germany:
Mr Joschka FISCHER

Mr Günter VERHEUGEN

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Federal Chancellor

Minister of State, Foreign Affairs

Greece:
Mr Giorgos PAPANDREOU

Mr Giannos KRANIDIOTIS

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs

Spain:
Mr Abel MATUTES

Mr Ramón de MIGUEL

Minister for Foreign Affairs

State Secretary for Foreign Policy and the European Union

France:
Mr Hubert VEDRINE

Mr Pierre MOSCOVICI

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Minister attached to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, with responsibility for European affairs

Ireland:
Mr David ANDREWSMinister for Foreign Affairs
Italy:
Mr Lamberto DINI

Mr Umberto RANIERI

Minister for Foreign Affairs

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Luxembourg:
Mr Jacques POOSMinister for Foreign Affairs
Netherlands:
Mr Jozias VAN AARTSEN

Mr Dick BENSCHOP

Minister for Foreign Affairs

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Austria:
Mr Wolfgang SCHÜSSELMinister for Foreign Affairs
Portugal:
Mr Jaime GAMA

Mr Francisco SEIXAS da COSTA

Minister for Foreign Affairs

State Secretary for European Affairs

Finland:
Ms Tarja HALONEN

Mr Kimmo SASI

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Minister of Foreign Trade

Sweden:
Ms Anna LINDH

Mr Gunnar LUND

Minister for Foreign Affairs

State Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs

United-Kingdom:

Mr Robin COOK

Ms Joyce QUIN

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Commission:
Mr Jacques SANTER

Sir Leon BRITTAN

Mr Manuel MARIN

Mr Hans VAN DEN BROEK

President

Vice-President

Vice-President

Member

General Secretariat of the Council:
Mr Jürgen TRUMPFSecretary General

EU CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

The EU discussed the initiative of the Presidency for a Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union to be submitted to the European Council in Cologne on 3/4 June 1999.

According to the Presidency suggestions, the Charter could contain in particular the fundamental rights and freedoms as well as basic procedural rights guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and derived from constitutional tradition of Member States as general principles of Community law. It could also include the fundamental rights that pertain only to the Union's citizens and take into account economic and social rights as contained namely in the European Social Charter and the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers.

The Presidency further suggests that the Cologne European Council should launch the process for the elaboration of such a Charter by setting up a convention composed of members of the European Parliament and the legislative bodies of Member States, representatives of Governments and the European Commission.

This body could be requested to prepare a draft document for the European Council under the French Presidency in order to allow the solemn proclamation of a "European Charter of Fundamental Rights", and it could afterwards be considered how to integrate it into the Treaties.

At the end of the debate the President thanked delegations for their contributions to both substantial and procedural questions which the Presidency will take into account in the further preparation of this matter. The President stated that he had got the firm impression that a consensus on the procedure to be followed for the elaboration of such a Charter should be possible.

The Council agreed to revert to this matter at its next session on 31 May in the framework of the preparation of the Cologne European Council. It asked the Permanent Representatives Committee to prepare the discussion on 31 May on the basis of the Presidency draft for a decision of the European Council.

INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS

The Council - on the basis of a Presidency working paper - held a first orientation debate on the questions on how and when to tackle institutional issues not resolved at Amsterdam such as the number of commissioners, the weighting of votes in the Council, the extension of qualified majority voting - to be settled before the next enlargement and any other possible questions relating to institutional reform.

The Presidency also raised the question of the preparation of the forthcoming IGC, which appears to be closely linked to the question of its scope: technical preparation listing the problems and possible solutions already discussed in the past, setting up and mandate of a preparatory structure: wise men/man, government representatives ?

As regards the timetable, the Presidency suggested to carry out preparatory work up until the Helsinki European Council and to finalise the Conference by the end of 2000.

In conclusion of the debate, the President thanked delegations for their valuable and constructive contributions to this important subject. The Presidency, under its own responsibility, will take into account the remarks made by Member States in its further reflections.

The Council agreed to continue its deliberations on these questions at its next session of 31 May with the aim of reaching an as broad as possible agreement on the preparation for the Cologne European Council.

COMMON EUROPEAN POLICY ON SECURITY AND DEFENCE

The Council held a debate on the issue of a European policy on Security and Defence, on the basis of a draft Presidency report to the European Council, in accordance with the conclusions of the Vienna European Council.

The Council will return to this issue at its next session on 31 May with a view to the Presidency finalising its report to the Cologne European Council of 3/4 June.

RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA

  • COMMON STRATEGY

The Council, having confirmed its agreement on the draft Common Strategy of the European Union on Russia, recommended it to the European Council for adoption, thus reaffirming the importance of the strategic partnership between the Union and Russia which this first Common Strategy under the Treaty of Amsterdam seeks to enhance.

  • second meeting of the cooperation council

The Council also adopted - without debate - the EU position to be taken at the 2nd Meeting of the Cooperation Council between the EU and Russia held in the afternoon of the same day (see separate Press Release, doc. 8283/99 Presse 152).

EU / US RELATIONS - HORMONES DISPUTE

The Council took note of a report by Vice-President BRITTAN on the latest developments in the dispute with the US over hormones (1). The Council, following its conclusions of 26 April 1999, underlined the sensitive nature of the dispute for all parties concerned and stressed the importance of handling this issue in a constructive and positive manner;

The Council invited the Commission:

    - to intensify its contacts with the US and Canada on all aspects of this issue, and in particular to enter into detailed and transparent discussions on the basis of the scientific evidence available;

    - in the event that the US or Canada seek authorization from the WTO to suspend concessions:

       a) to make further efforts to agree on compensation, and if necessary

       b) to request arbitration on the level of concessions;

The Council also welcomed the intention of the Commission to study all the relevant available information in order to evaluate, with Member States, possible next steps taking into account the rights and obligations of the EU under the WTO, and to keep the Council fully informed.

The Council also took note of a report by the Commission on the outcome of the ministerial meeting with the US, Canada and Japan in Tokyo on 11-12 May on the preparations for the Third WTO Ministerial Conference (Seattle, 30 November-3 December 1999).

ACTION PLAN FOR RECONSTRUCTION OF CENTRAL AMERICA - CONCLUSIONS

    1. The Council held a preliminary discussion on the Commission communication concerning a Community Action Plan for reconstruction in Central America. It supported the general outlines of the plan and the guidelines for its funding. Detailed examination of the communication will continue as soon as possible within the framework of development cooperation, in particular with regard to the arrangements and conditions for its implementation.

    2. The Council restated its solidarity with the peoples of Central America affected by Hurricane Mitch in October and November 1998.

    3. The Council welcomed the opportunity it would have to discuss the general outlines of this communication with the beneficiary countries at the San José XV Ministerial Conference in Bonn on 20 May 1999.

    4. It is the Council's view that the programmes for reconstruction in Central America in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 should help to transform this region by reinforcing democracy, the rule of law and social justice.

    5. The Council hopes that the programmes will help reduce the vulnerability and marginalisation of the very poorest and reinforce sustainable development.

    6. The Council welcomes the commitment of the countries concerned in Central America to endeavouring to improve proper management of public administration, and especially decentralisation, transparency and increased participation by civilians, NGOs and the private sector in the reconstruction efforts.

    7. The Council is convinced that the Community reconstruction plan should be included in the National Plans of the beneficiary countries and be duly coordinated with the plans of the Member States and of other major providers of funds. To this end, it emphasises the importance of the meeting in Stockholm of the Advisory Group, attended by the countries of Central America and the donor countries, which will take place from 25 to 28 May1999.

    8. The Council took note of the Commission's commitment to submit a proposal for the programme's funding as soon as possible to the Member States, in the appropriate fora and in accordance with the budget procedures currently applicable, for which the total amount allocated is EUR 250 million.

western balkans

  • KOSOVO - CONCLUSIONS

The Council recalled its conclusions of 8 and 26 April and regretted that President Milosevic still has not accepted the set of conditions of the international community. Half or partial measures which do not meet the above conditions will fail to provide the guarantees necessary for the safe return of the refugees. The Council emphasised the EU's adherence to these conditions in their entirety.

The Council discussed the repercussions of the Kosovo crisis with President Milo Djukanovic. It reiterated its full support for the democratically elected Government of Montenegro and commended its determined efforts to continue on its democratic course under very difficult circumstances and to avoid giving a pretext to President Milosevic for undermining and destabilising the Republic.

The Council welcomed the opportunity to discuss the situation in Kosovo with Mr Ibrahim Rugova. The Council informed Mr Rugova of its current efforts to solve the Kosovo crisis through a political settlement that would provide for the safe return of all refugees and for substantial self-government for Kosovo within the borders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and help abate the overheated nationalist sentiments now prevailing in the area.

The Council warmly welcomed the general principles for a political solution to the Kosovo crisis adopted by the G8 Foreign Ministers.

The Council supported President Ahtisaari's willingness to work on behalf of the Union, in cooperation with the Russian and US efforts, to ensure the implementation of the conditions of the international community to end the conflict in Kosovo.

The Council also welcomed the appointment by the UN Secretary General of two Special Representatives for the Kosovo crisis, former Prime Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden and Foreign Minister Milan Kukan of Slovakia.

The Council stressed the need for an early United Nations Security Council Resolution and confirmed its preparedness to bring such a Resolution about. The EU confirmed its readiness to play its part in implementing an agreed political solution.

The Council welcomed the cooperation of associated countries with the Union's sanctions regime.

The Council shared the profound regret expressed by the United Nations Security Council over the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

The Council urged all relevant organisations to make the maximum effort to bring humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced persons within Kosovo.

The Council highlighted the need for EU assistance to have an early impact in the region and heard a report by the Commission on the allocation and the intended rapid disbursement, within the next few days, of the 100 Million Euro direct budgetary assistance to Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro in order to contribute to the stabilisation of the region. Fully aware of the enormous strain the refugee influx is exerting on the fragile democracies of the region, the Council closely follows the developments on the ground and encourages the FYROM authorities to exhaust all possibilities to cope with the ensuing problems.

The Council heard a preliminary report by the Commission on its conditionality review, an enhanced regional approach and the upgrading of contractual relations with FYROM and Albania. It looked forward to the early submission by the Commission of its communication on these issues.

The Council agreed upon the establishment of a Stability Pact, the adoption of a related Common Position (2) and a draft text for "the Stability Pact" providing the basis for further talks between the EU and other Parties of the Pact. The Council instructed the relevant working bodies to take work forward urgently, with a view to a meeting at senior officials level to be held in Bonn on 27 May. The Council recalled that the European Council in Vienna in December 1998 had concluded that a Common Strategy on the Western Balkans should be developed, and agreed that the necessary work should be put in hand, on the basis of a broader regional approach.

ANNEX

  • COMMON POSITION concerning the launching of the Stability Pact of the EU on south-eastern Europe

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

having regard to the Treaty on European Union, and in particular its Article 15;

Whereas:

    1. on 8 and 26 April 1999 the Council adopted conclusions concerning south-eastern Europe;

    2. a political solution to the Kosovo crisis must be embedded in a determined effort geared towards stabilising the region as a whole;

3. a Stability Pact for south-eastern Europe should be prepared;

    4. such a Stability Pact should be founded on the UN Charter, the principles and commitments of the OSCE, and the relevant treaties and conventions of the Council of Europe, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights;

    5. the EU should play the leading role in the Stability Pact, the OSCE has a key role to play in fostering security and stability, and the Stability Pact should be developed and implemented in close association with the OSCE;

    6. the EU, in the framework of the Regional Approach and beyond, is already active in strengthening democratic and economic institutions in the region through a number of well established programmes;

    7. the EU will draw the region closer to the perspective of full integration of these countries into its structures through a new kind of contractual relationship, taking into account the individual situation of each country, with a perspective of EU membership on the basis of the Amsterdam Treaty and once the Copenhagen criteria have been met;

    8. the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should be invited to participate in such a Stability Pact once it has met the necessary conditions;

HAS ADOPTED THE FOLLOWING COMMON POSITION:

Article 1

1. The EU will play the leading role in establishing a Stability Pact for south-eastern Europe.

    2. The aim of this Stability Pact is to help ensure co-operation among the countries in the region towards comprehensive measures for the long-term stabilisation, security, democratisation, and economic reconstruction and development of the region, and for the establishment of durable good-neighbourly relations among and between them, and with the international community.

    3. The EU will work to ensure the creation among the participants themselves of a "South-Eastern Europe Regional Table" to carry forward the Stability Pact.

Article 2

    1. In order to further the objectives stated in Article 1 the European Union will convene a conference on south-eastern Europe.

    2. The conference will take place at the level of Foreign Ministers, if possible no later than the end of July 1999 in the light of developments in the region. The conference will be held using the Royaumont format (excluding the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until it has met the conditions of the International community for its participation). In addition, representatives of Canada, Japan, EBRD, EIB, IMF, WB, OECD, UN, NATO, WEU, UNHCR, as well as representatives of regional initiatives will also participate at the conference.

    3. The Conference will be prepared at a meeting in Königswinter (Petersberg) on 27 May 1999 at the level of senior officials, in the format set out in paragraph 2. With a view to this, work for this conference will be carried forward urgently.

Article 3

    1. The EU will actively support the countries in the region in achieving the objectives of the Stability Pact.

    2. The EU will undertake together with international donors to organise a donors/reconstruction conference for south-eastern Europe.

Article 4

The Common Position shall take effect on the date of its adoption

Article 5

This Common Position shall be published in the Official Journal.

ASSOCIATION AGREEMENT WITH EGYPT - STATE OF NEGOTIATIONS

The Council took note of an oral report made by Vice-President MARIN and the Presidency on the outcome of the latest negotiating session with Egypt in Cairo on 11-12 May.

The Council welcomed the progress made during this last round of negotiations and confirmed its commitment to concluding them without delay. With this objective in mind, the Council instructed the Permanent Representatives Committee to examine the detailed elements for an overall package and decided to revert to it at its next meeting on 31 May.

EAST TIMOR

The Council was briefed by the Foreign Minister of Portugal on the agreement on East Timor signed in New York on 5 May by him, the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia.

The Council warmly welcomed that agreement, but expressed its concern at the mounting violence in the territory. It stressed the importance of the urgent implementation of its conclusions of 26 April regarding support for the process of consultation and transition and confirmed the need for a substantial contribution by the European Union to the popular consultation planned for 8 August.

BELARUS - COUNCIL DECLARATION

The Council takes note of the electoral consultations in Belarus on 16 May. It believes strongly that the Belarusian people should have the opportunity to express themselves democratically on the political and constitutional questions confronting Belarus.

In this connection the Council once again demands that the Belarusian Government free the former Prime Minister and opposition candidate, Mikhail Tchigir, immediately.

The Council calls upon the Belarusian Government to take the initiative now to enter into a political dialogue with the opposition. It calls upon the opposition to take up such an offer in a constructive way. It points out the willingness of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk to mediate in order to bring about such a dialogue which is essential if urgent questions concerning the future of the country are to be resolved.

The Council for its part will follow this dialogue closely. The visit by EU Troika Senior Officials to Minsk on 27 and 28 April 1999 demonstrated the Council's interest in developing relations between the European Union and Belarus step-by-step. It looks forward to positive steps from the Belarusian side.

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

(In the case of legislative acts, votes against or abstentions are indicated. Decisions containing statements, which the Council had decided may be released to the public or explanations of vote are asterisked; the statements and explanations of vote in question may be obtained from the Press Office.)

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)

The Council adopted a Common Position aimed at promoting the adoption by the year 2000 of a legally binding protocol establishing a verification and compliance regime that will effectively strengthen the BTWC Convention.

Nigeria - lifting of remaining sanctions

The Council adopted a Common Position repealing its 30 October 1998 Common Position on Nigeria as from 1 June 1999, taking account of the fact that on 29 May 1999 a civilian democratically elected President will take office and a civilian government will be formed, and that thus the conditions previously set for the lifting of the remaining sanctions against Nigeria will have been fulfilled.

Enlargement

The Council adopted the EU's common position in preparation of the Accession negotiations with Poland at the level of Deputies on 19 May 1999, on the topic of telecommunications and information technologies.

EEA Council

The Council defined the position of the EU in preparation of the 11th meeting of the European Economic Area Council to be held on 18 May 1999 (see Press release EEE 1604/99 Presse 157).

TRADE

Malta - trade in textiles

The Council authorised the Commission to negotiate with Malta an agreement repealing the tariff ceilings for textile products provided for in the Association Agreement.

Cyprus - imports of grape juice and must

The Council adopted a Regulation aimed at maintaining the tariff preferences already granted to Cyprus under the Association Agreement as concerns the import into the EU of grape juice and must, after the introduction of new import arrangements resulting from the Uruguay Round.

schengen

Agreement with Iceland and Norway on Schengen

Following political agreement reached on 26 April 1999, the Council formally adopted two decisions on :

    - the conclusion of the Agreement with Iceland and Norway concerning their association with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis,

    - certain arrangements for the application of the above Agreement.

The Agreement defines the appropriate procedures to enable Iceland and Norway to be associated with the Schengen acquis and its further development by the EU, further to the Cooperation Agreement which they signed with the Schengen countries in 1996 in Luxembourg on the abolition of controls on persons at common borders. The Luxembourg Cooperation Agreement stemmed from the establishment in 1957 of the Nordic Passport Union between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

The Agreement with Iceland and Norway was signed on 18 May (see separate Press release, doc. 8284/99 - Presse 153).

The first meeting of the Mixed Committee set up under the Agreement and composed of representatives of the governments of Iceland and Norway, the members of the Council and the Commission, was convened immediately afterwards (see above Press release).

The Decision on certain arrangements for the application of the Agreement lists the areas In which the procedures for associating Iceland and Norway are to be followed in the further development of the Schengen acquis. It establishes that initiatives and proposals considered to fall within these areas, as well as acts for adoption in these areas, should indicate this in the text. It also provides for the possibility of calling a Coreper meeting to discuss whether an initiative or proposal falls within one of these areas.

APPOINTMENT

Committee of the Regions

The Council adopted a Decision appointing Mr Juan José IBARRETXE MARKUARTU a member of the Committee of the Regions in place of Mr José Antonio ARDANZA GARRO for the remainder of its term of office, which expires on 25 January 2002.

TRANSPARENCY

Public access to Council documents

The Council approved the content of a letter to Mr. Aldo Kuijer following the partial re-examination of his confirmatory application of 25 August 1998 in relation to case T-188/98 (Aldo KUIJER v/Council), the Danish and Finnish delegations voting against.

(1) In particular about contacts with the US and Canada in the margins of the Quadripartite Trade meeting in Tokyo last week.

(2) See Annex.


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