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C/99/21

Brussels, 25 January 1999

5455/99 (Presse 21)

2158th Council meeting

GENERAL AFFAIRS

Brussels, 25 January 1999

    President::Mr Joschka FISCHER

    Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Federal Chancellor of Germany

S U M M A R Y

PARTICIPANTS 

4

POINTS DISCUSSED

WORK PROGRAMME OF THE GERMAN PRESIDENCY 6
DRAFT STATUTE FOR MEMBERS OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT 7
AGENDA 2000 8
ENLARGEMENT - CONCLUSIONS 10
RUSSIA - CONCLUSIONS 10
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS - CONCLUSIONS 11
IRAQ - CONCLUSIONS 11
WESTERN BALKANS REGION - CONCLUSIONS 12
HUMAN RIGHTS - CONCLUSIONS 15
CODE OF CONDUCT ON ARMS EXPORTS - CONCLUSIONS 15
SIERRA LEONE - CONCLUSIONS 16

POINTS ADOPTED WITHOUT DISCUSSION

EXTERNAL RELATIONS
- Belarus - conclusions I
- Afghanistan - EU common position I
- FRY - ban on flights I
- FRY - EU Special Representative II
- Nuclear Suppliers Group - financing of communications II
- Euro-med partnership - regional cooperation II
- Development cooperation - human rights II
- Renegotiation of the 1995 Food Aid Convention III
- EU/ACP - negotiations on a development partnership agreement III
- Relations with Chile - Framework Cooperation Agreement III
- Relations with New Zealand IV
- CEECs - rules of origin IV
- Asylum and Migration High Level Group IV

TRADE QUESTIONS

- Anti-dumping - imports of hardboard V
- Anti-dumping - television camera systems from Japan V
- Anti-dumping - lighters from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao VI

ECOFIN

- External auditors of national central banks VI
- Recasting of the Financial Regulation - Conclusions VI

CULTURE / AUDIOVISUAL

Resolution concerning Public Service Broadcasting VII

HEALTH

Programme on Injury Prevention VIII

RESEARCH

- Fifth Framework Programme IX
- Scientific and technological cooperation with Argentina IX

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

New Directive on Telecommunications equipment X

INTERNAL MARKET

- Treatment of food and food ingredients with ionizing radiation

     Coffee extracts and chicory extracts 

X

- Amended Regulation concerning counterfeit and pirated goods XI

TRANSPARENCY

Public access to Council documents XII

For further information call 285.87.04 or 285.74.59

The Governments of the Member States, the European Commission and the General Secretariat of the Council 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

State Secretary, Foreign Affairs

Greece:
Mr Theodoros PANGALOS

Mr Giorgos PAPANDREOU

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 for European Affairs

Ireland:
Mr David ANDREWSMinister for Foreign Affairs
Italy:
Mr Lamberto DINIMinister for Foreign Affairs
Luxembourg:
Mr Jacques POOS

Ms Lydie ERR

Minister for Foreign Affairs

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, External Trade and Cooperation

Netherlands:
Mr Jozias VAN AARTSEN

Mr Dick BENSCHOP

Minister for Foreign Affairs

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Austria:
Mr Wolfgang SCHÜSSEL

Ms Benita FERRERO-WALDNER

Minister for Foreign Affairs

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Portugal:
Mr Jaime GAMAMinister for Foreign Affairs
Finland:
Mr Ole NORRBACKMinister for European Affairs
Sweden:
Ms Anna LINDH

Mr Gunnar LUND

Mr Leif PAGROTSKY

Minister for Foreign Affairs

State Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs

Minister for Trade

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

Mr Manuel MARÍN

Sir Leon BRITTAN

Mr João de Deus PINHEIRO

Mr Erkki LIIKANEN

Mr Hans VAN DEN BROEK

Ms Monika WULF-MATHIES

President

Vice-President

Vice-President

Member

Member

Member

Member

* * *

Council General Secretariat

Mr Jürgen TRUMPFSecretary General

 

    WORK PROGRAMME OF THE GERMAN PRESIDENCY

    The Council held its now customary open debate - transmitted by television to the press and public - on the German Presidency's programme for the first semester 1999.

    In his introductory statement the President of the Council, Minister Fischer, set out the four overriding objectives of the German Presidency which are :

      - the successful completion of the Agenda 2000 negotiations in time for the special European Council meeting on 24/25 March in Berlin;

      - making clear progress towards an effective employment policy and namely the adoption of a European employment pact at the June European Council in Cologne;

      - to press ahead determinedly with EU enlargement;

      - strengthening the EU's ability to act in the foreign policy sphere.

    Minister Fischer also indicated that the Presidency considers that it is time to address the existing deficits in the EU in the area of political integration and democracy.

    In their interventions, Ministers commended the Presidency on its ambitious work programme and pledged their support to the efforts of the Presidency for reaching positive results in the four priority areas and, in particular, to bring the Agenda 2000 package to a successful conclusion by the end of March. In addition to commenting on the priority areas, Ministers also indicated specific issues to which they attach particular importance.

    DRAFT STATUTE FOR MEMBERS OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

    The Council was informed of the Presidency's intentions regarding the examination of the draft statute for members of the European Parliament, adopted by the EP on 4 December 1998, and for which the Vienna European Council invited the Institutions involved to ensure the necessary follow-up.

    The draft is based on a new provision - Article 190.5 - of the Treaty of Amsterdam which has not yet entered into force. Therefore, the examination will, at this stage, be an informal one justified by the political interest in the file and the request made by the European Council.

    The Commission indicated its intention to present an informal opinion on this draft in February. The procedure in the Council foresees that the competent working party will immediately examine the draft statute and prepare a first report. The Presidency will remain in contact with the European Parliament on this issue and in particular with its ad hoc working party.

    AGENDA 2000

    The Council took note of the Presidency's intentions concerning the organization of work on Agenda 2000 aimed at ensuring that political agreement can be achieved at the 24/25 March European Council in Berlin. The Presidency's plan provides for a method of work, a timetable and the procedure of using non-papers to gradually flesh out the "negotiating box", the content of which will become the draft conclusions of the March European Council.

    Entering into the phase of genuine negotiations the Council addressed two issues, concerning, on the one hand, the structural funds, the performance reserve and the principle of coherence between the map of the areas the Member States propose as eligible for structural funds assistance towards economic and social conversion (objective 2) and the map of the areas notified to the Commission under Article 92(3)(c) of the Treaty and, on the other hand, consistency between CAP reform and the financial means available under heading 1 of the financial perspective.

    Regarding the principle of coherence concerning objective 2, the Council endorsed the agreement already reached in COREPER on a text for a recital of the proposed Council Regulation and confirmed the agreement also reached in COREPER on the elements concerning the procedure to be applied to the performance reserve (Article 43 of the proposed Council Regulation).

    As for the overall amount for the performance reserve, the Council reached agreement on a figure of 4% of the total appropriations for the structural funds over the whole period, it being understood that for the definitive acceptance of this figure by certain Member States there is a clear link with other essential elements of the Commission's proposal for structural funds which should accompany this performance reserve, notably appropriate rules for commitment and decommitment, and stricter application of financial corrections.

    With regard to the consistency between CAP reform and the financial means available under heading 1 the Council adopted the following conclusions :

    "The Council wishes to emphasise the need to ensure consistency between the objectives and scope of the CAP reform on the one hand and the financial resources available under heading 1 of the new financial perspective on the other. Recent CAP reforms have made it possible to maintain strict budgetary discipline when drawing up annual budget plans for heading 1.

    The General Affairs Council calls upon the Agriculture Council resolutely to pursue this policy, consistent with achieving a worthwhile and equitable reform.

    In principle the Council takes the view that the ceiling on heading 1 set in the financial perspective for the 15 should be more in keeping with actual spending. Many Member States take the view that this should at least stabilise agricultural expenditure.

    The Council calls on the Permanent Representatives Committee to continue its detailed discussions on the level and the development of expenditure under heading 1 along these general guidelines. The Council will keep a careful watch on progress on the content of the reform; it assumes that aspects of the reform with major financial consequences and for which no solution can be found will be included in the overall package which the General Affairs Council will scrutinise in preparation for the meeting of the European Council in March."

    ENLARGEMENT - CONCLUSIONS

    The Council reconfirmed the high priority it attaches to the enlargement process.

    In this light, it welcomed the Presidency's work programme which foresees the intensification of negotiations in the first half of 1999 (two negotiating sessions at deputy level on 19 April and 19 May and one at Ministerial level on 22 June).

    The Council requested the Permanent Representatives Committee to actively prepare the next meetings of the Accession Conferences and agreed to return to their preparation at an appropriate moment.

    RUSSIA - CONCLUSIONS

    The Council took note of the information provided by the Presidency and the Commission on the preparations of the third EU-Russia Summit under the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, to be held in Moscow on 18 February 1999.

    Points made in the discussion, notably on the importance of effective measures for dealing with the nuclear waste problem, will be taken into account in the preparations.

    The Council noted that the meeting would take place at an important juncture and would need to address a number of key issues (in particular nuclear waste and food aid). It would also be an opportunity to brief the Russians on the Common Strategy towards Russia now under preparation.

    MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS - CONCLUSIONS

    The Council discussed the Middle East Peace Process. The Council, recalling its declaration of 22 December 1998, deplored the continued suspension by the Israeli Government of implementation of the Wye River Memorandum, in contravention of both the spirit and the letter of the Memorandum. The Council repeated its appeal to both sides to implement the Wye Memorandum fully and without new conditions. The forthcoming visit to the Middle East by the Council President, with the Commission and accompanied by the Special Envoy, presents a welcome opportunity to convey EU positions to the parties, to hear their views and to explore how the EU can best support the Peace Process.

    IRAQ - CONCLUSIONS

    The Council welcomed the fact that the situation in Iraq is being discussed in the Security Council on the basis of initiatives by members of the UN Security Council to reach agreement on the way forward on Iraq, dealing both with issues of weapons of mass-destruction and the alleviation of the predicament of the Iraqi civilian population. Lasting security and stability in the region, as well as the living conditions of the Iraqi people, are the prime considerations that must guide the Council's action.

    The Council discussed the possibility of an EU initiative aimed at enhancing the role of the EU in efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq.

    The Council looked forward to the future reintegration of Iraq into the international community and a more prosperous and dignified life for the Iraqi civilian population.

    The Council reaffirms that Iraq must fully comply with its obligations as provided for in the relevant Security Council resolutions and calls on the Government of Iraq to cooperate to that end.

    WESTERN BALKANS REGION - CONCLUSIONS

    FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA

    The Council discussed the situation in Kosovo in the presence of EU Special Envoy Ambassador Petritsch. It expressed its outrage at the massacre of civilians in Racak. The EU's position has been made known directly to President Milosevic in a letter from the President of the Council, together with a number of demands with which the FRY must conform. The Council condemned UCK provocations which can only contribute to rising tensions and further violence.

    The Council stressed the need to ensure that actions in all international fora should be mutually reinforcing.

    The Council welcomed the results of the Contact Group meeting of 22 January 1999, in particular the goal of early negotiations on a political solution, following a meeting of the Contact Group at ministerial level to be held as soon as possible.

    The Council reiterated its firm support for the negotiating process on the basis of the proposals put forward by Ambassadors Hill and Petritsch as endorsed by the Contact Group and the EU. It stressed that violence plays only into the hands of those on both sides who oppose a negotiated settlement.

    The Council expressed its strong support for the KVM which is a major factor for stability in the region. It underlined President Milosevic's responsibility to permit KVM and its Chief of Mission to carry out their tasks unimpeded, and for the security of KVM personnel. The Council welcomed the establishment of an extraction force in Skopje.

    The Council instructed its competent bodies to step up work, in parallel with the ongoing negotiations in various fora, on the strengthening of sanctions. The Council also recalled its 7 December 1998 invitation to its competent bodies and the Commission to make proposals to enable the EU to play its part in stopping the flow of money and weapons to Kosovo armed groups. Proposals and clarifying documents presented in the meantime by the Commission need to be examined.

    The Council firmly underlined its insistence on the need for the Kosovo Albanian leadership to display responsibility and form a broad based and truly representative team to engage in negotiations with Belgrade, with direct international involvement. The Kosovo Albanian leadership's failure to unite risks serious harm to the people of Kosovo. Now is the time for leaders on both sides to show courage and vision in achieving a political solution to tackle the roots of the problem.

    The EU remains committed to assist the future implementation of a political solution to the future status of Kosovo, also through reconstruction assistance. The Council commended the Commission's ongoing work on damage assessment in the region and looked forward to an early report on it as well as on a meeting at expert level on the issue foreseen for the 3 February.

    The Council noted that its competent bodies and the Commission, pursuing the mandate given by the last GAC, are examining conditions for reconstruction assistance, in particular on whether the geographic distribution for 1999 on the OBNOVA line meets needs and EU political priorities, particularly in Kosovo and whether and how conditionality could be applied to projects in this very specific area. The Council instructed its competent bodies to finalise their work.

    The Council welcomed Sr. Felipe Gonzalez's intention to stay on during 1999 as EU Special Representative and approved the Joint Action rolling over his mandate until January 2000.

    In line with its support for Montenegro the Council adopted a Regulation exempting Montenegro Airlines from the JAT flight ban.

    Albania

    While welcoming the recent meeting between the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Democratic Party as necessary first step to a consolidation of democratic life, the Council condemned the DP's continued boycott of Albanian democratic institutions. Political

    leaders, in particular in the DP, who do not act according to accepted democratic standards, cannot be accepted as valid interlocutors by the EU. The Council urged Albania to make every effort to contribute to the efforts of the international community in order to bring the parties to the conflict in Kosovo to come urgently to the negotiating table. The Council welcomed the upcoming Friends of Albania Conference, stressing the need to monitor implementation of decisions taken at the Tirana Conference, and instructed its competent bodies to put in hand work enabling the EU to constructively contribute to the Conference. The Council welcomed the WEU's intention to implement in the coming weeks its enhanced police operation in Albania and invited its competent bodies and the Commission to work together with the WEU to speedily finalise all outstanding technical details of the operation. The Council underlined the importance it attaches to the stability and security of Albania and encourages further actions to this effect.

    Bosnia Herzegovina

    The Council welcomed the outcome of the Madrid Peace Implementation Conference and supported its Conclusions, which map the way forward for further Dayton implementation. It reiterated its full support for the HR Carlos Westendorp. The Council urged the formation of a new Republika Srpska Government determined to fully comply with the Dayton agreement.

    The Council underlined the importance of EU reconstruction programmes for institution building, economic reform and, in particular, the return of refugees and displaced persons.

    HUMAN RIGHTS - CONCLUSIONS

    Following the endorsement by the European Council in Vienna of the EU "Declaration on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on human rights" of 10 December 1998, the Council reaffirmed the importance of a reinforced EU capacity to protect and promote human rights.

    The Council invited the Permanent Representatives Committee and the Political Committee to start work on how to implement all the operational points listed in the Vienna Declaration, including an Annual EU human rights report, taking into account points made in the discussion and the Council's existing annual human rights memorandum to the European Parliament.

    CODE OF CONDUCT ON ARMS EXPORTS - CONCLUSIONS

    The Council discussed a proposal by the Presidency to strengthen the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and to transform it into a Common Position under Article J.2 TEU. In the Presidency's view the question of how to deal with this issue in the future warrants further examination.

    The Council underlined the importance it attached to a timely conclusion of the ongoing work on the common list of equipment covered by the Code of Conduct.

    SIERRA LEONE - CONCLUSIONS

    The Council expressed its grave concern at recent events in Sierra Leone and condemned the attacks against unarmed civilians and especially the atrocities committed against women and children. It reiterated its support for the democratically-elected Government of Sierra Leone.

    The Council stressed the importance of dialogue and national reconciliation for the restoration of lasting peace and stability to Sierra Leone, and welcomed the efforts aimed at resolving the conflict, including the key contribution of UNOMSIL and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, as well as the efforts in support of the legitimate government from the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, and its ECOMOG (ECOWAS Military Observer Group) forces. In this context the Council reiterated that the existing Common Position on Sierra Leone does not prevent the supply outside Nigeria of military equipment for the peacekeeping force ECOMOG in Sierra Leone. The Council agreed that its appropriate bodies should urgently examine the scope for further facilitating peacekeeping efforts.

    It underlined the important work of humanitarian organisations in the present situation and called on ECOWAS and the Government of Sierra Leone to allow them to carry out their work without hindrance and to protect their staff. In this regard, the Union indicated its willingness to provide additional assistance to the people of Sierra Leone when conditions permit.

OTHER DECISIONS

(Adopted without discussion. In the case of legislative acts, votes or abstentions are indicated. Decisions containing statements which the Council has decided to release to the public are indicated by asterisks; the statements in question may be obtained from the Press Office;)

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

Belarus - conclusions

The Council welcomed the joint declaration by the Presidency of the Council and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus of 10 December 1998 concerning the EU Ambassadors' residences in the "Drozdy" complex, which opened the way to the return of EU Ambassadors to Minsk on 17 January. In the expectation that the Belarus authorities will fulfil the agreements reached in spirit and in letter, the Council instructed its appropriate bodies to prepare, on that assumption, the formal decision to repeal the Common Position of 9 July 1998 on visa restrictions in due course.

Afghanistan - EU common position

The Council adopted a new common position defining the EU's objectives vis-à-vis Afghanistan, namely:

    - to bring about a sustainable peace in Afghanistan, put an end to foreign intervention, and  encourage intra-Afghan dialogue through support for the central role of the United Nations;

    -  to promote the stability and development of the whole region through peace in Afghanistan;

    -  to promote respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, including the rights of

 women and children;

    - to provide effective humanitarian aid and ensure that the international coordination of aid allows for its provision in accordance with international humanitarian principles and an impartial  needs assessment;

    - to reinforce the fight against illegal drugs and terrorism;

    - to assist in peace-building activities and, once a durable peace settlement is in place, the  reconstruction of the country after years of civil war.

FRY - ban on flights

Further to its conclusions of 6 December 1998, the Council adopted a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 1901/98 on the ban on flights of Yugoslav carriers between the FRY and the EC, in order to minimize its negative effects on Montenegro. To that end, individual or charter series flights by Montenegro Airlines will be exempted from the ban, on the condition that conclusive evidence is provided that neither the Serbian nor the federal authorities will benefit from the revenues deriving from such exemptions.

FRY - EU Special Representative

The Council adopted a Decision extending for another year the mandate of the Special Representative for the FRY, Felipe Gonzalez, until 31 December 1999.

Nuclear Suppliers Group - financing of communications

The Council adopted a Joint Action concerning the financing of a secure communication system to all members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which are not EU Member States.

This Joint Action provides for a maximum amount of 200.000 euros to be charged to the EC 1999 budget in order to finance a secure fax and telephone system to all NSG non-EU members, fully compatible with the communication system in use in the EC. The aim is to enhance the cooperation between the EU and the other NSG members, with a view to promoting transparency in nuclear-related export controls.

Euro-med partnership - regional cooperation

The Council defined guidelines for the EU's position at the euro-mediterranean Conference on regional cooperation to be held in Valencia, Spain, on 28-29 January.

This conference aims at discussing the role fulfilled by the regional dimension of the Euro-mediterranean partnership and the results of the various regional activities, as well as to evaluate how the objectives and expectations have been met. The results of the conference will be presented to the meeting of the Foreign Ministers in Stuttgart on 15-16 April, which will assess the priorities of this cooperation and readjust them if deemed necessary.

Development cooperation - human rights

The Council defined its common position concerning the draft Regulation laying down the requirements for the implementation of development cooperation operations which contribute to the general objective of developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law and to that of respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in development cooperation. This common position will be forwarded to the European Parliament, in line with the procedure of article 189 C (cooperation procedure).

The draft Regulation stipulates that the EC will provide technical and financial aid for operations aimed at:

    = promoting and defending the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments concerning the development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law;

    = supporting the processes of democratisation;

    = promoting respect for human rights and democratisation by preventing conflict and dealing with its consequences, in close collaboration with the relevant competent bodies.

The financial reference amount for the implementation of this Regulation will be 260 million euros between 1999 and 2004. In managing this programme the Commission will be assisted by a Human Rights and Democracy Committee composed of representatives of the Member States.

Renegotiation of the 1995 Food Aid Convention

The Council finalised the position to be taken by the EC at the final Negotiation Meeting on the renewal of the 1995 Food Aid Convention, in London on 2-3 February 1999.

EU/ACP - negotiations on a development partnership agreement

The Council took note of the preparations for the first ACP-EU Ministerial Negotiating Conference on a development partnership agreement, to be held in Dakar on 8 and 9 February 1999.

At the formal opening of the negotiations in Brussels on 30 September 1998 the two Parties adopted a negotiating structure involving a Central Group responsible for political drive and monitoring of the negotiations and for certain political, institutional and general topics, and three thematic Groups (on the Private Sector, Investments and Other Development Strategies, on Economic and Trade Cooperation and on Financial Cooperation).

Further to the work conducted so far at the level of experts, the following questions have been identified as those on which Ministers could focus on in Dakar:

    - Central Group: "Essential elements": approach, content and definitions; arrangements for consultations in connection with the non-fulfilment clause.

    - Group on the Private Sector, Investment and Other Development Strategies: examination of matters concerning the definition of a coherent support framework for development strategies, ensuring complementarity and interaction between the various topics addressed in conjunction with the objectives of the partnership. One issue here will be that of the importance to be given to the strategies for developing the private sector.

    - Group on Economic and Trade Cooperation: scope of the new trade arrangements; fluctuating export earnings from commodities.

    - Group on Financial Cooperation: rationalisation and simplification of instruments; rolling programming.

Relations with Chile - Framework Cooperation Agreement

The Council adopted a Decision on the conclusion of the Framework Cooperation Agreement leading ultimately to the establishment of a political and economic association, signed with Chile on 21 June 1996.

This Agreement aims at strengthening existing relations between the Parties on the basis of reciprocity and mutual interest, paving the way for the progressive and reciprocal liberalization of trade, ultimately leading to the establishment of a political and economic association between the EU and Chile in conformity with the rules of the WTO and with due allowance for the sensitivity of certain products. To those ends, this Agreement covers political dialogue, trade and economic matters, cooperation and other matters of mutual interest, its objective being to forge closer relations between the Parties and their respective institutions. It also states that respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is at the heart of both Parties' domestic and external policies and constitutes an essential element of the Agreement.

Relations with New Zealand

The Council defined the EU's position in preparation for the negotiations on a Joint Declaration on relations between the EU and New Zealand.

CEECs - rules of origin

The Council approved, on behalf of the EU, the draft decisions of the EU-Bulgaria, EU-Poland, EU-Hungary, EU-Latvia and EU-Lithuania Association Councils, amending the Protocols to the Europe Agreements with those countries, as concerns the definition of the concept of "originating products" and methods of administrative cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the EFTA countries.

In the first half of 1997 a system introducing pan-European cumulation of rules of origin was adopted. The above-decisions are designed inter alia to integrate Turkey partly into the system, to extend application of the principle of territoriality provided for in the EEA Agreement to the other partner States, to prolong the possibility of applying flat-rate customs duties, and to make certain technical amendments or clarify the wording.

Asylum and Migration High Level Group

The Council approved the terms of reference of this High Level Group as well as the list of countries of origin and transit of asylum seekers and migrants for which the Group will draw up an action plan.

It is recalled that the Group was set up by the Council on 7/8 December following an initiative by the Netherlands delegation, in order to establish a common, integrated, cross-pillar approach targeted at the situation in the most important countries of origin of asylum-seekers and migrants. At the two meetings which the Group held already, it prepared the terms of reference and drew up a list of countries.

According to the Group's terms of reference, the action plans should comprise notably elements such as a joint analysis of the causes of influx, suggestions aimed at strengthening the common strategy for development with the country concerned, identification of humanitarian needs and proposals to this end, indications on re-admission clauses and agreements, on possibilities of reception and protection in the region, safe return, repatriation, as well as on the cooperation with UNHCR.

With regard to the list of countries to be examined by the Group, the Council identified the following: Afghanistan/Pakistan; Albania and the neighbouring region; Morocco; Somalia and Sri Lanka.

Moreover, an assessment of the results yielded so far by the Action Plan on the influx of migrants from Iraq and the neighbouring region will take place. This Action Plan will be taken forward in agreement with the K.4 and Political Committees.

The Group will submit, for approval by the Council in advance of the Tampere Special European Council in October 1999, a final report containing action plans on the above countries. It will be disbanded upon submission of its final report unless the Council decides otherwise.

TRADE QUESTIONS

Anti-dumping - imports of hardboard

The Council adopted a Regulation imposing definitive anti-dumping duties on imports of hardboard originating in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia.

The rate of the definitive duty applicable to the net free-at-Community frontier price is set as follows:

Bulgaria: 7.2% (except Fazerles AD: 7.1%)

Estonia: 6%

Latvia: 4.7%

Lithuania: 11.4%

Poland: 34.8% (except five companies, to which a rate between 9.1 and 22.4%   is applied)

Russia: 30.6%

Companies whose undertakings have been accepted by the Commission will be exempted from this duty.

The amount provisionally secured by the provisional Regulation (Reg. (EC) No 1742/98) will be definitively collected to the extent of the amount of the definitive duties levied. As the proceeds concerning imports from Brazil were terminated by a Commission decision without the imposition of measures, the amounts secured by the provisional Regulation with respect to that country are released.

Anti-dumping - television camera systems from Japan

The Council adopted a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 1015/94, which imposed a definitive anti-dumping duty on imports of television camera systems (TCSs) originating in Japan.

Following a request by four Japanese producers, the Regulation adds certain models to the list of cameras exempted from the duty, as they are high-end professional cameras which cannot be regarded as broadcast cameras though they technically fall within the product definition.

Anti-dumping - lighters from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao

The Council adopted a Regulation extending the definitive anti-dumping duty, imposed by Regulation (EEC) No 3433/91 on imports of gas-fuelled non-refillable pocket flint lighters from China, to also cover imports of the same lighters consigned from or originating in Taiwan, as well as refillable lighters from China and Taiwan, and terminating the proceeding in respect of imports lighters consigned from Hong Kong and Macao.

This follows a complaint by the European Federation of Lighters Manufacturers that lighters originating in China were being transhipped via Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and non-refillable lighters were being subject to slight modifications so as to be declared refillable, with the aim of circumventing the existing anti-dumping measures.

Concerning the first point the Commission concluded that the refillable lighters from China were identical in all respects to the non-refillable ones in the preceding investigation, except for the addition of an ineffective refill valve.

As to the allegation that lighters produced in China were being incorrectly declared as being of another origin, the Commission concluded that in view of the small quantities imported from Hong Kong, and given that the production capacity of a Macao-based producer was sufficient to account for the total exports from Macao, the anti-dumping measures should not be extended to Hong Kong and Macao. Concerning Taiwan, it was concluded that lighters of Chinese origin but consigned to the EC from Taiwan were being imported at dumped prices and that, therefore, the existing anti-dumping measures should be extended to include them.

ECOFIN

External auditors of national central banks

Following a recommendation by the European Central Bank, the Council approved a decision concerning the external auditors of the national central banks.

The decision provides for the reappointment of the current external auditors appointed by each participating national central bank, as recommended by the European Central Bank.

Recasting of the Financial Regulation - Conclusions

"The Council has examined the Commission's working document of 22 July 1998 on the recasting of the Financial Regulation, which sought to open up an interinstitutional debate on this subject. The Council welcomes this initiative. It calls on the Commission to submit a formal proposal in the light of that debate as soon as possible. The Council notes that the Commission will submit such a proposal during the first half of 1999. It notes that the final result of the recasting of the Financial Regulation will have to take into account the results of the Agenda 2000 discussions.

The Council wishes the recasting of the Financial Regulation to be an opportunity, in the first place, of asserting with greater force and defining with greater precision the four traditional principles of budgetary law (unity, universality, specification and annuality), so that they can be applied more rigorously. The Council also wishes to see a clear statement and definition, in the Financial Regulation, of the principles that require the budget to be established with a view to accuracy and adopted in a balanced fashion.

The Council calls on the Commission to insert in the Financial Regulation a principle of openness, together with the precise rules needed to ensure that the Budget Authority receives better information about the implementation of the budget.

The Council requests that the future proposal should maintain the obligation whereby, during the budgetary procedure, an estimate of the budget outturn of the current financial year must be entered in the budget for the following year, but that it should also specify that an amending budget will be submitted and adopted during the first half of each year with the object of entering in the budget for the current year the difference between the outturn actually recorded when the accounts for the completed year are submitted and the estimate of it that was previously made. The Council also requests that the conditions currently imposed by Article 15 of the Financial Regulation on the submission of a supplementary and amending budget (existence of unavoidable, exceptional or unforeseen circumstances; urgency), as well as the possibility for the Council to determine its position after an exchange of views with the European Parliament, should be clarified and precisely defined.

The Council calls on the Commission to maintain the exhaustive list of reserves which the Communities' general budget may contain, as currently set out in Article 19 of the Financial Regulation. However, it also asks the Commission to stipulate that appropriations cannot be entered in the reserve for provisional appropriations (currently Chapter B0-40) except in two cases: where there is no legal basis for the measure concerned at the time of establishment of the budget; where there is uncertainty regarding the adequacy of the appropriations in the relevant operational headings. There should be an explicit prohibition on the creation of reserves not mentioned by the Financial Regulation or the use of such reserves other than in the two cases specified by that Regulation.

The Council requests that the proposal should provide for all Community subsidies to appear in Part B (Operational expenditure) of the Commission section of the Communities' general budget.

The Council requests that, when the proposal for the overhaul of the Financial Regulation is made, the Commission should state how it conceives the procedures for evaluating Community measures and the procedures for risk analysis and for maintaining sufficient control over all Community expenditure without exception."

CULTURE / AUDIOVISUAL

Resolution concerning Public Service Broadcasting

Further to the approval of the draft resolution concerning public service broadcasting at the "Culture/Audiovisual" Council of 17 November 1998, this resolution has now been formally adopted by the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States represented in the Council.

HEALTH

Programme on Injury Prevention *

Following the approval of its common position on the programme of Community action on injury prevention by the European Parliament, the Council definitively adopted the programme, by qualified majority, the Dutch delegation voting against.

The "Decision adopting a programme of Community action on injury prevention in the context of the framework for action in the field of public health (1999-2003)" corresponds exactly to the common position, as it must under the Treaty rules concerning acts adopted jointly by the Council and the European Parliament (co-decision procedure).

     This programme is one of the eight programmes within the Community's framework for public health action, in place since 1993. Five programmes (AIDS and other communicable diseases, cancer, drug dependence, health promotion and health monitoring) are currently being implemented. The Conciliation committee between the Council and the European Parliament is due to meet soon to try and reach agreement on the two remaining programmes (rare diseases and pollution-related diseases).

The aim of this programme is to contribute to public health activities which seek to reduce the incidence of injuries, particularly injuries caused by home and leisure accidents, by promoting:

    - the epidemiological monitoring of injuries by means of a Community system for the collection of data and the exchange of information on injuries based on strengthening and improving on the achievements of the former European Home and Leisure Accidents Surveillance System (EHLASS);

    - information exchanges on the use of the above-mentioned data to contribute to the definition of priorities and better prevention strategies.

The data to be fed to the system will be collected, in accordance with the collection systems submitted for that purpose by the Member States, from hospitals and/or other appropriate establishments and services, and by means of surveys.

The epidemiological monitoring and exchanges of information will be carried out through creation of Community networks devoted in particular to the following functions:

    - promoting concerted approaches to all technical and methodological aspects, in particular codes and definitions and the collection of data,

    - making comparable and compatible data available to the system and communicating them to it,

    - examining the cover provided by existing data-collection systems and, if necessary, improve that cover; contributing to the identification of survey requirements,

    - promoting the creation of a database that includes the results of the surveys,

    - carrying out the collection, processing and dissemination of information,

    - facilitating the identification of dangerous products,

    - developing new approaches to and innovative methods of dealing with problems, and

    - analysing risk factors and prevention strategies.

The financial framework for the five-year period for this programme is established at 14 MECUs. This amount includes 7,5 MECUs designed for the implementation of the EHLASS activities, previously included in the sector of Consumer policy of the Community.

RESEARCH

Fifth Framework Programme *

The Council formally adopted the 8 specific programmes implementing the Fifth Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities (1998-2002), and the two programmes implementing the Fifth Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community for research and training activities (also covering the years 1998-2002).

Agreement on all specific programmes had already been reached at the "Research" Council of 22 December 1998 when the EC and EURATOM Framework programmes were adopted. Since then, the texts of the 10 individual draft decisions have been finalized, permitting their final adoption at today's Council session.

An extensive summary of each of the programmes together with a breakdown of funds can be found in Press release No. 14135/98 (Presse 454) of 22 December 1998.

The individual programmes cover the following areas:

FIFTH FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME (1998-2002):

    - Quality of life and management of living resources

    - User-friendly information society

    - Competitive and sustainable growth

    - Energy, environment and sustainable development

    - Confirming the international role of Community research

    - Promotion of innovation and encouragement of SME participation

    - Improving human research potential and the socio-economic knowledge base

    - Direct actions to be carried out by the Joint Research Centre (JRC)

FIFTH EURATOM FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME (1998-2002):

    - Nuclear energy research

    - Direct actions to be carried out by the Joint Research Centre (JRC).

Scientific and technological cooperation with Argentina

The Council decided to authorize the Commission to negotiate an agreement for scientific and technological cooperation between the European Community and the Argentine Republic. The Community and Argentina concluded a Framework agreement for trade and economic cooperation in 1990; the planned agreement in the science and technology area aims to establish a cooperation in the fields covered by the EC's Fifth Research Framework Programme (see previous item).

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

New Directive on Telecommunications equipment

Following the agreement reached with the European Parliament in the Conciliation committee on 8 December 1998, the Council adopted the Directive on radio equipment and telecommunications terminal equipment and the mutual recognition of their conformity.

The Directive will establish a single market in terminal equipment, thus completing the total liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in an important area for both manufacturers and consumers. Faster technological progress in this sector and shorter times taken to develop terminal equipment, together with mass distribution, mean that the Community regulations in force applicable to such equipment have to be radically revised in the direction of rationalization and simplification, in line with the Community's "new approach" to technical harmonization. It has indeed been argued that while the average lifetime of telecommunications terminal and radio equipment has shrunk to as little as 3 years, assessment and approval procedures even in straightforward cases can take 18 months to complete. The new directive therefore follows the route of a "light" conformity assessment regime based upon the principle of manufacturers' declarations.

The deadline for implementation of the directive by the Member States is 1 January 2000. It will then replace two existing texts (Directive 91/263/EEC on telecommunications terminal equipment and Directive 93/97/EEC concerning satellite earth station equipment).

For further information, see Press release No. 13920/98 of 8 December 1998.

INTERNAL MARKET

Treatment of food and food ingredients with ionizing radiation *

Coffee extracts and chicory extracts

The Council adopted new Community legislation concerning

    - the treatment of food and food ingredients with ionizing radiation; and

    - coffee extracts and chicory extracts.

In both areas, an agreement had been reached between the Council and the European Parliament in the Conciliation committee on 8 December 1998.

The new Directive on coffee and chicory forms part of a broader process of simplifying Directives on foodstuffs. Directive 77/436/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to coffee extracts and chicory extracts will be replaced by a simpler text dealing only with the essential requirements to be met by the products concerned so that they can move freely throughout the internal market. These products are coffee (or chicory) extract, soluble coffee (or chicory) extract and instant coffee (or chicory).

Greater detail regarding this Directive can be found in Press release No. 13918/98 of 8 December 1998.

Explanation by the Swedish delegation of its vote

"Sweden basically takes the view that unit pricing is sufficient and there is thus no need for standardised packaging sizes for coffee extracts and chicory extracts. In order to show a willingness to compromise and make for progress, Sweden is nevertheless voting in favour of the proposal. We take it, however, that standardised sizes for coffee extracts and chicory extracts are a special case and this decision will not set a precedent for other fields. It is not in consumers' interest to impose any further unnecessary rules of this kind. Sweden would point out in particular that the aim in reviewing the Directive relating to coffee extracts and chicory extracts was to simplify legislation and we regret the fact that his has only partly been achieved."

As far as the treatment of food with ionizing radiation is concerned, the new legislation consists of two Directives:

    - a framework Directive which applies to the manufacture, marketing and importation of irradiated foods and food ingredients and which lays down general provisions such as the conditions for treatment, the rules governing the approval and control of irradiation facilities, and labelling;

    - an implementing Directive listing the foodstuffs which can be treated with ionizing radiation. The initial Community list, together with the maximum doses authorized for this purpose, is limited to dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings.

A full summary of these two texts is contained in Press release No. 13919/98 also of 8 December 1998.

Amended Regulation concerning counterfeit and pirated goods

The Council, by qualified majority with the Spanish delegation abstaining, adopted a Regulation amending Regulation 3295/94 laying down measures to prohibit the release for free circulation, export, re-export or entry for a suspensive procedure of counterfeit and pirated goods. The Spanish delegation's voting explanation is quoted below.

The amendments are intended to improve the operation of the system set up by Regulation 3295/94 and to update it in line with the development of Community legislation on intellectual property rights. They will, in particular, extend the scope of the Regulation to cover patents. The customs authorities will be permitted to take action against goods infringing certain intellectual property rights whatever the customs status of such goods, including those placed in a free zone or free warehouse.

It is recalled that the main purpose of Regulation 3295/94 is to allow the customs authorities to suspend customs operations in cases where the products are suspected of being counterfeit or pirated goods covered by an intellectual property right (trade mark, design right, copyright or neighbouring rights) in respect of which "customs protection" has already been requested by the rightholder.

Explanation of vote by the Spanish delegation :

"The Spanish delegation is abstaining on the grounds that, in relation to the Commission proposal, extending the scope of Regulation No 3295/94 to include process patents is difficult in practice and that the Committee provided for in Article 13 of the Regulation should examine in detail the customs authorities' action in such cases to ensure harmonised control mechanisms throughout all national customs administrations."

TRANSPARENCY

Public access to Council documents

The Council agreed

    - on the reply to the request by Mr Tony BUNYAN for access to documents following the decision of the Ombudsman on complaint 1087/10.12.96. The Danish delegation voted against and the Finnish delegation abstained ;

    - on the reply to the first confirmatory application for access to Council documents submitted by Mr Ben HAYES in 1998. The Danish delegation voted against.


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