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

Belgium:

Mr Erik DERYCKE Minister for Foreign Affairs

Denmark:

Mr Friis Arne PETERSEN State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Germany:

Mr Hans-Friedrich VON PLOETZ State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Greece:

Mr Theodoros PANGALOS Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Giorgios PAPANDREOU Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs

Spain:

Mr Ramón de MIGUEL State Secretary for European Affairs

France:

Mr Pierre MOSCOVICI Minister with responsibility for European Affairs

Ireland:

Mr David ANDREWS Minister for Foreign Affairs

Italy:

Mr Piero FASSINO State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Luxembourg:

Mrs Lydie ERR State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Netherlands:

Mr Hans VAN MIERLO Minister for Foreign Affairs

Austria:

Mr Wolfgang SCHÜSSEL Minister for Foreign Affairs

Portugal:

Mr Jaime GAMA Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Francisco SEIXAS da COSTA State Secretary for European Affairs

Finland:

Mrs Tarja HALONEN Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Ole NORRBACK Minister for European Affairs

Sweden:

Mrs Lena HJELM-WALLÉN Minister for Foreign Affairs

United Kingdom:

Mr Robin COOK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Mr Doug HENDERSON Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

*

* *

Commission:

Mr Jacques SANTER President

Sir Leon BRITTAN Vice-President

Mr Manuel MARÍN Vice-President

Mr Hans VAN DEN BROEK Member

 

 

TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS

The Council noted preparations in hand for the EU-Canada and EU-US Summits to be held in London on 14 and 18 May respectively. It invited the Permanent Representatives Committee to continue the preparation of both summits, including taking forward an EU position on both transatlantic trade and sanctions legislation.

The Presidency, working with the Commission, will bring forward its proposals for the EU-US Summit Communiqué in order to take forward the New Transatlantic Agenda signed in 1995, taking full account of Member States' sensitivities, with the aim of promoting multilateral liberalisation, as well as enhanced bilateral cooperation by progressively reducing or eliminating barriers that hinder the flow of goods, services and capital.

As to the recent Commission communication, a number of Members of the Council expressed broad support, while others expressed specific concerns, and France reiterated its opposition.

The Council took note of the progress in consultations with the US on the Helms-Burton and Iran and Libya Sanctions Acts. While noting that there was still some way to go before a satisfactory resolution was reached, the Council invited the Presidency and Commission to pursue their efforts with the aim of achieving a solution satisfactory for the interests of the Union, by the time of the EU-US Summit. Such a settlement is a condition for developing transatlantic trade.

 

 

 

AGENDA 2000

The Council noted the Presidency's progress report on Agenda 2000, and endorsed the line to be taken in the response to be made by the President of the Council to the President of the European Parliament on the legislative handling of the Commission proposals. It instructed the Permanent Representatives Committee to finalise the text of the reply.

The Council will have a substantive debate on all aspects of Agenda 2000 at its meeting on 25 May on the basis of a Presidency interim report, with a view to finalising the report to the Cardiff European Council at its meeting on 8 June.

 

 

TURKEY - CONCLUSIONS

The Council discussed the preparations for the Association Council with Turkey scheduled for 25 May. It heard a report from Commissioner van den Broek on the exploratory contacts which the Commission has had with Turkey on the elements of the proposed European strategy for Turkey identified at the Luxembourg European Council and drawing on the Commission's communication.

The Council reaffirmed the importance it attached to a successful Association Council. It invited the Presidency and Commission, in close consultation with Member States, to continue the necessary preparation on the European strategy for the Association Council.

 

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS - CONCLUSIONS

The Council discussed the situation in the Middle East Peace Process following the recent visit of Prime Minister Blair to the region. It welcomed the agreement of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Arafat to meet US Secretary of State Albright in London on 4 May, as well as additional meetings of all three with the Presidency. These meetings represent an opportunity to review the momentum in the negotiations. In this context, the Council strongly urged the parties to approach the London meetings with the necessary determination to find a compromise along the lines put to them by the US. The EU is ready to help facilitate progress.

 

RUSSIA

The Council briefly discussed the preparations for the forthcoming EU-Russia Summit (London, 15 May) which will deal with, inter alia, trade issues, cooperation on the fight against crime and nuclear environmental hazards.

 

NORTHERN IRELAND - CONCLUSIONS

The Council welcomed the Agreement reached in Belfast on 10 April as an historic opportunity for a new beginning and the achievement of a lasting, balanced and fair settlement with an end to violence. It congratulated all those who had worked so hard to achieve this agreement. It urged the parties and the people of Ireland, North and South, to seize this opportunity to build a peaceful future based on partnership, equality and mutual respect.

The Council noted also the EU's constructive contribution to economic and social development in Northern Ireland and the border counties of the South by means of various programmes. It agreed that the Union should continue to play an active part in promoting lasting peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland.

 

WESTERN BALKANS - CONCLUSIONS

KOSOVO

The Council expressed its deep concern at the mounting violence in Kosovo and called on both parties to act with restraint. It reaffirmed its insistence that the FRY and Serbian security forces conform to internationally accepted standards. It also reiterated its condemnation of all terrorist acts and called on those outside the FRY who are providing support for terrorist activity in Kosovo to cease doing so immediately.

The Council underlined the fundamental importance of an urgent start to a meaningful dialogue without preconditions between the parties if further bloodshed is to be avoided. It expressed its disappointment that time had passed without material progress in this respect, but welcomed indications that both sides were now trying to address the need to settle the modalities for substantive discussions. The Council considered that the assistance by the international community in the process would be necessary to establish a climate of confidence between the parties. It welcomed the intention of Mr. Gonzalez to arrange an early visit to Belgrade, taking up his mission on behalf of the EU and the OSCE jointly.

The Council reiterated its support for the territorial integrity of the FRY. It emphasised in this context the particular responsibility that President Milosevic has to promote a peaceful settlement to the problems of Kosovo. It regretted that he had so far declined to shoulder fully this responsibility and agreed that additional measures against Belgrade would be taken in the case of continued failure to meet the international community's requirements. In this context, it noted the contingency technical work which was being taken forward by the Council instances on such measures. The Council recalled that if, on the other hand, the FRY Government were to show a real willingness to cooperate with the international community and engage in meaningful dialogue, the European Union would be prepared to consider positively the FRY's participation in the mechanisms of European cooperation.

The Council underlined the importance of a cohesive international approach to this crisis. It welcomed the recent Troika visit at senior official level to Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and will continue to cooperate closely with the countries in the region, not least, where appropriate, on the question of border security.

 

MONTENEGRO

The Council welcomed the continuing commitment shown by President Djukanovic to political and economic reforms in Montenegro and agreed that the EU should send a clear and immediate signal of its support for the reform process. It therefore agreed to allocate an initial amount of ECU 3 million in financial assistance to the Montenegrin government to help it meet outstanding social welfare payments, and instructed the appropriate Council bodies to finalise urgently the necessary Joint Action. It asked the Commission to ensure that the funds are disbursed with the minimum of delay.

The Council endorsed the proposed mission by the Troika at senior official level to Montenegro on 5 May in order to assess further how the EU might assist the process of democratic reform. In particular it saw this visit as a good chance to identify opportunities for Community assistance such as in the field of independent media.

 

CROATIA

The Council made clear its concern at the lack of progress made by Croatia on refugee returns. It reiterated the Union's expectation that Croatia take rapid action to improve its performance in the area of refugee returns, including by participating fully in the Regional Conference on refugee returns at Banja Luka on 28 April. In line with the regional approach, the Union will consider its support for the Croatian Conference on Reconstruction and Development in the light of Croatia's acts.

 

WESTERN BALKANS : CONDITIONALITY

- CONCLUSIONS (Adopted without debate)

1. The Council discussed the performance of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, FRY and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in meeting the criteria, set out in its 29 April 1997 conclusions, for developing EC relations (autonomous trade measures, PHARE and contractual relations) with the countries in question. The Council’s assessment of each country follows.

2. The Council declared itself in broad agreement with the conclusions suggested by the Commission on this subject, namely, that the present level of relations with the countries covered by the Regional Approach should continue. The Council remained keen to develop relations with the countries concerned, but the speed of the development of the relationship depended upon them. If they moved quickly to fulfil the necessary (and clearly stated) criteria, then there could be a corresponding deepening of ties with the EC. But any country which showed itself to be moving backwards with respect to the criteria, would similarly jeopardise its existing level of relationship with the EC. The onus, therefore, lay with each of the states to demonstrate that it was fitted to maintain and move forward in its relations with Europe. The Council recalled that its next review would take place in October 1998: it hoped that by then further progress would be possible.

3. The Presidency and the Commission will ensure that this assessment is brought to the attention of the countries concerned.

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Progress has been made in implementation of the Dayton /Paris peace agreements, in particular following the Bonn Peace implementation Council of December 1997. Much more could have been achieved had all parties co-operated fully and many of the achievements of the past few months have been made only thanks to the High Representative. But the appointment of a new government in the Republika Srpska in January 1998, committed to Dayton/Paris, marked a significant step forward. Since then the sense of political cooperation between the Entities and at the central government level has greatly improved. The onus is now on the Federation to ensure further compliance, including effective dissolution of Herceg-Bosna structures and police restructuring in cooperation with IPTF.

Cooperation with the International Tribunal has improved. A large number of war crimes indictees remain in the RS, but the new RS government has indicated that it will cooperate with the Tribunal and invited the Tribunal to establish an office in Banja Luka. The Council believes it essential that the trend of cooperation with the Tribunal and surrender of indictees continue over the next six months.

There have been some advances in respect for democratic principles, but much remains to be done. There has not yet been full implementation of the municipal election results. Political pluralism needs to be established, with a movement away from parties being based solely on ethnic lines. The September 1998 elections will be a crucial test of Bosnia’s progress. Establishment of free and fair media will be important in the period up to the elections: while some progress has been made in RS (with the involvement of the OHR and international community), in both entities the nationalist political parties continue to exercise strong influence over the electronic media.

Refugee return needs to be facilitated more. While there are some "open cities " for returnees of any origin, in most places authorities use their control over social ownership and privately owned housing to slow down or completely block minority returns. The Council welcomes the recent agreement of a new Federation property law.

Economic reform continues to be hindered by the lack of an IMF agreement and an adequate institutional framework. The adoption by the Federation of four key privatisation laws and the RS decision to scrap the former RS privatisation law open the way to a much more co-ordinated inter-Entity privatisation approach. Some progress has been made on transparency and accountability: structural reforms are now under way to get a grip on public finances in both Entities and at the state level.

 

On regional cooperation, there has been no progress in ensuring that Federation/Croatia and FRY/RS relations are made compatible with the peace agreements.

 

Conclusion

The institutional arrangements foreseen by Dayton/Paris would need to be functioning adequately before contractual negotiations could become possible. Aside from concrete progress in creating these structures, the areas of refugee return, democratic consolidation (in particular the September 1998 elections), independent media and surrender of war crimes indictees will be crucial over the next six months.

 

Croatia

The Council has on several occasions (most recently the EU ministerial troika meeting with Foreign Minister Granic on 23 March and the combined international demarche to President Tudjman on 14 April) set out its view on Croatian compliance with regional approach conditionality.

Recent developments (not least President Tudjman’s 21 February speech to the HDZ party congress) have put into question Croatia’s commitment to the Dayton/Paris agreements and Bosnian territorial integrity. Croatian proposals for special relations with the Federation remain incompatible with Dayton/Paris. While there has been some improvement in Croatian relations with the RS, and the creation of the Croatia-BiH cooperation council, more remains to be done eg Croatian discrimination against RS citizens in its visa policy towards Bosnia. Despite the amendment of Croatian law to allow extradition to the ICTY, and the surrender in October 1997 of 10 Bosnian Croat indictees, overall cooperation needs to be improved and President Tudjman’s criticism of those co-operating with the ICTY retracted. Croatia should exercise greater influence on Bosnian Croats to cooperate fully in Dayton implementation including on dissolution of Herceg-Bosna institutions.

The area of refugee return remains of great concern. Little has been done to foster the climate of ethnic reconciliation necessary for such return, in particular to the Krajina region. There is no evidence of state-funded reconstruction of Croatian Serb housing. Ethnic discrimination at the local level is rife. Croatian property law has, in effect, been used by local authorities to confiscate property of Croatian Serbs. The most recent document on Croatian Refugee Return Procedures falls far short of the requirements of the EU and the rest of the international community for a comprehensive and complete concept for refugee return and its effect is likely to be to dissuade and impede, rather than facilitate, refugee return. Croatia has yet to commit itself to full participation in the regional return process and related initiatives.

Croatia has undertaken a number of international human rights/democracy obligations. But concerns remain at the lack of editorial independence for the state media, and lack of access of opposition parties. In practice there remain serious obstacles to the right to association and to NGO activity.

There was a smooth transition in Eastern Slavonia at the end of the UNTAES mandate, and the Croatian government request for temporary maintenance of UNCIVPOL was welcome. But on the ground in Eastern Slavonia, practices by local authorities have led to a feeling of insecurity among local Croatian Serbs and have resulted in an exodus.

In general, government commitment to macro-economic reform is good. Trade liberalisation and privatisation have continued, although more attention needs to be directed to micro-economic problems such as banking supervision.

Croatia has made significant progress in regional cooperation, and signed a number of trade agreements. Croatian policy towards Bosnia, however, remains inconsistent, and despite some improvements towards the end of 1997, further progress in relations with the FRY currently appears blocked.

 

Conclusion

Croatia has consistently stated its wish for integration into European structures (in particular inclusion in the PHARE programme and the negotiation of a cooperation agreement): the Council welcomes this. But Croatia has failed to translate this stated wish into progress in meeting EU conditionality criteria. Indeed indications so far in 1998 are that Croatia is moving away from EU criteria. Recent developments on ethnic reconciliation and refugee return have been in the wrong direction: at a time when fostering of confidence of the Serb minority is crucial for the regional return process. Unless recent trends are reversed, and there is a clear improvement in Croatian performance, the Council believes that the removal of Croatia from the autonomous trade preferences system should be seriously considered, at the latest by the next review in October.

 

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

The Council considered the FRY’s performance as a whole, given the nature of the instruments covered by the regional approach, which can only apply to states. It will examine other means of responding appropriately to progress made in an individual constituent republic.

The Council remains gravely concerned about the situation in Kosovo, as made clear by its recent statements and acts (eg 19 March Common Position). No progress has been made towards granting Kosovo a large degree of autonomy within the borders of the FRY. The position of the authorities in Belgrade and the Kosovar Albanians continue to fall short of satisfying the demands of the EU and the international community. Progress on the Education Agreement is a first step, but there is an urgent need for a dialogue without preconditions to begin.

On internal democracy, the recommendations set out in the Gonzalez report remain largely unfulfilled in Serbia. In Montenegro, the OSCE judged the October 1997 Presidential election to reflect the will of the voters, and since his inauguration, President Djukanovic has provided evidence of a credible commitment to democratic reforms.

Little progress has been made in the FRY on market economy reform. Some steps have been taken in trade liberalisation (eg reduction of customs duties) and Serbia has passed a privatisation law (although no company has yet been privatised under it).

FRY attitude to Dayton/Paris has been mixed. There has been no change to the negative position of the FRY authorities on cooperation with the ICTY, although President Djukanovic has stated Montenegro’s commitment to implement all FRY’s obligations under Dayton/Paris including on the ICTY. The FRY still has to make its agreement on special relations with the RS compatible with Dayton/Paris. The FRY has, however, played a constructive role in developments in the RS, including the formation of the new government.

On regional cooperation, there had been some improvement in relations with neighbouring countries such as Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Normalisation of relations with Croatia has come nearer, although currently further progress appears blocked and relations with all the ex-Yugoslav republics remain hampered by lack of progress on the succession issue.

Conclusion

The current situation allows no progress in relations with the EC. The Council wishes to see development of relations with the FRY, once the conditions established by the Council on 29 April 1997 are met. Progress in advancing the process of dialogue on Kosovo, with a view to reaching a satisfactory solution to the current crisis, and in addressing grave problems of internal democracy should be undertaken as a matter of priority.

 

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia globally complies with democratic principles. The respect for human rights is generally satisfactory; however, there are isolated exceptions (notably involving ethnic questions - e.g. in Gostivar) and media freedom remains of some concern.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia maintains a credible and valuable commitment to minority rights, although progress is needed in the area of Albanian language education. Access of minorities to the media has improved, as has representation of minorities in public institutions (with the exception of the police and defence ministry)

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to make progress in market economy reform, including macro-economic stabilisation, trade liberalisation and privatisation, but additional efforts are needed in terms of private sector development and foreign direct investment.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has shown its willingness to develop good-neighbourly and cooperative relations with all the countries of the region.

 

Conclusion

The Council welcomes the positive role played by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in promoting regional stability. It notes the need for a continuation of policies designed to promote ethnic tolerance and integration. This will be an important factor for the Community in considering its relations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The entry into force of the Cooperation Agreement is an important step in relations with the EC and the Council looks forward to its full implementation. In this respect it welcomes the holding of the first Ministerial political dialogue in February and Cooperation Council in March. A possible upgrading of relations between the Community and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be considered at a later stage, taking account of the implementation of the Cooperation Agreement and of assistance under PHARE, as well as developments in the country inter alia in the above-mentioned areas.

 

Albania

The primary challenge for the Albanian authorities remains to consolidate internal security and political and economic stability following the events of 1997.

Respect for human rights and democratic principles is capable of further improvement. Progress is needed on the adoption of a new constitution; this requires the cooperation of the opposition Democratic Party.

The new government has broadly implemented the six-month emergency programme focusing on macro-economic stabilisation, and is currently negotiating a medium-term structural reform programme with the IMF. Rapid completion of the winding-up of the pyramid schemes is necessary.

The Albanian government has pursued a policy of cooperation with its neighbours, and adopted a moderate attitude over ethnic Albanians in FRY (Kosovo) and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Conclusion

The Council recognises the constructive position of Albania on regional issues. The primary task remains to re-establish domestic stability and promote reconciliation following the events of 1997. While primary responsibility lies with Albania, the EU is willing for its part to continue its assistance effort and the active dialogue started in the holding of the Ministerial political dialogue in the margins of the January General Affairs Council and the March Joint Committee in Tirana. Full implementation of the existing programmes under PHARE and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, as well as progress in political and economic stabilization are important criteria in developing the relationship with the EC. In this respect, the Council notes that the Commission envisages sending an expert mission to examine the application of the current trade regime for agricultural, industrial and textile products and possibilities to enhance trade cooperation.

OTHER DECISIONS

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

 

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

 

Declaration on Caspian energy (pipelines)

The Council believes that the Caspian Basin could make a major contribution to global oil and gas supplies within a decade. The EU has an interest in promoting the exploitation of the region's reserves. It will continue to encourage regional stability, including a peaceful resolution of conflicts, and the development of robust democratic and economic institutions. Investment by European companies, particularly in the energy sector, will be a major factor. The EU will actively help to safeguard those interests.

The Council considers that secure export routes for Caspian oil and gas will be crucial to the future prosperity of the region, to the foreign companies investing in exploitation of those reserves, and to international markets. The construction of multiple pipeline routes is therefore logical and desirable. Foreign investors will need to take account of all the relevant factors - political, geographical and financial - in reaching strategic decisions on pipeline routes. The Council believes that the timing of those decisions and the specific routes chosen should remain essentially a commercial one for the companies concerned. The Council also attaches importance to revitalising the existing regional pipeline network.

In this context, the European Union's Interstate Oil and Gas Transport to Europe Programme (INOGATE) should be an important contribution to ensuring security of supplies. The EU will also continue to support the development of transport links and networks in the region, notably through the infrastructure projects linking Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (TRACECA).

 

Restrictive measures against the FRY

The Council adopted a Regulation concerning the reduction of economic relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in order to implement the sanctions agreed to in the 19 March 1998 common position (cf. Press Release 6889/98 Presse 73) which fall under Community competence.

The Regulation prohibits the supply to the FRY of equipment intended for repression/terrorism, as defined in a list annexed to it, as well as the provision of official financial support for trade and investment or for privatisations in Serbia.

 

 

Burma/Myanmar - prolongation of sanctions

The Council extended for another six months, until 29 October 1998, the common position adopted on 28 October 1996 on Burma/Myanmar.

The common position of 28 October 1996 had confirmed the measures adopted previously, such as the expulsion of the military personnel attached to Burma's diplomatic representations in the Member States, the arms embargo and the suspension of non-humanitarian aid, and had established new ones such as the ban on the issue of visas to the leadership of the regime and to senior army officers and the suspension of high-level government visits.

 

Sierra Leone - suspension of sanctions

The Council adopted a Regulation and a Common Position suspending the sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone on 8 December 1997, further to the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of Resolution 1156 (98), which welcomes the return of Sierra Leone's democratically elected President and which decides to terminate with immediate effect the prohibitions on the sale/supply of petroleum and petroleum products imposed last October.

 

ACP - Lomé Convention

The Council adopted a Decision concerning the conclusion of the Agreement amending the fourth ACP-EC Lomé Convention, as the conditions for entry into force laid down in Article 360 have now been met (i.e. ratification by over two-thirds of the ACP States and by all EU Member States).

The revised Convention will enter into force on 1 June 1998. It is recalled that the Agreement, signed on 4 November 1995, aims at increasing the effectiveness of Community support for the development of the ACP States by modernizing and adapting the instruments of the Convention, without calling into question the fundamental principles underlying ACP-EC cooperation, in particular that of partnership. The Agreement also contains a new Financial Protocol (the first under the current Convention, for a five-year period, expired at the end of February 1995) for the second five-year period of application of the Convention.

Among the innovations introduced by the Agreement, the following will be noted in particular:

– strengthening of the political and institutional aspects of the Convention, in particular by affirming democratic principles and respect for the rule of law, considered to be "essential elements" of the Convention, and the introduction of a clause allowing for total or partial suspension of cooperation, after consultation, except in emergencies, in the event of violation of one of those essential elements, and extension of the dialogue between the Parties to include problems of a political nature;

 

– recognition by both sides that the development of trade is at the centre of ACP-EC cooperation and that all the means available under the Convention should be used to remedy the deterioration in the ACP States' commercial performance, resulting in particular from their lack of competitiveness, the erosion of their preferences and their insufficiently diversified economies. The Agreement also contains new trade concessions for certain agricultural products and renders more flexible certain provisions concerning rules of origin;

– improvements have, finally, been made to the procedures for implementing financial and technical cooperation, in particular those concerning the programming of aid. The aim of those improvements is to ensure more efficient use of the financial resources of the European Development Fund.

With regard to the volume of aid under the Convention's 2nd Financial Protocol (8th EDF), the European Union is making financial aid amounting to ECU 13,3 billion available to the ACP States, an increase in the region of 22% over the previous EDF. Loans from the European Investment Bank's own resources will be in addition to this, raising the total amount of financial aid from the Community to ECU 14,625 billion over five years.

 

Turkmenistan - Partnership and Cooperation Agreement

The Council, together with the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, approved the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Turkmenistan, which will be signed in the near future.

This Agreement is designed to govern political, economic and trade relations between the parties and also establishes the basis for social, financial, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation between them, just like the other Partnership and Cooperation Agreements signed with other Republics of the former USSR. It will replace the Agreement signed with the former USSR in 1989, which currently governs the Community's relations with those of the Republics of the former USSR with which new agreements have not yet been concluded. This Partnership Agreement will initially be valid for a ten-year period.

 

Romania - Association Council

The Council defined the EU's position in view of the fourth Association Council with Romania, to be held on 28 April 1998 (see Press Release UE-RO 1803/98 Presse 122).

 

Slovakia - Association Council

The Council defined the EU's position in view of the fourth Association Council with Slovakia to be held on 28 April 1998 (see Press Release UE-SK 2003/98 Presse 123).

 

Malta - Association Council

The Council defined the EU's position in view of the tenth Association Council with Malta to be held on 28 April 1998 (see Press Release CE-M 604/98 Presse 121).

 

 

TRADE QUESTIONS

Anti-dumping - personal fax machines from Asia

The Council adopted the Regulation imposing definitive anti-dumping duties on imports of personal fax machines originating from China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

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

Imports from China : 51,6%

" " Japan : 34,9%

" " Korea : 25,1%

" " Malaysia : 89,8%

" " Singapore : 39,5%

" " Taiwan : 36,6%

" " Thailand : 22,6%

except for the companies which collaborated with the Commission's investigation (or, in the case of China, which were granted individual treatment), to which a lower rate is applied.

The amounts secured by way of the provisional anti-dumping duty shall be definitively collected at those rates - amounts secured in excess shall be released.

The Regulation applies to personal fax machines, defined as those with a weight of 5 kg. or less and with dimensions (width x depth x height) of the main body measuring 470mm x 450mm x 170mm or less, excluding those using inkjet or laser or L.E.D. printing technology.

Where necessary, the Council, upon a proposal from the Commission, will clarify on an individual model-by-model basis which professional machines falling within these criteria and which portable professional machines (used with a mobile telephone), are not covered by the Regulation.

 

Anti-dumping - Russia and China

The Council adopted the Regulation amending the anti-dumping Regulation (Regulation 384/96) in order to take account of the fact that the process of reform in Russia and China has fundamentally altered their economies and has led to the emergence of firms for which market economy conditions prevail.

The Regulation provides for the removal of Russia and China from the list of countries to which non-market economy treatment applies. For producers which can demonstrate that they are submitted to market conditions, "normal value" (i.e. price at which exporters sell goods on their domestic market) will be determined in accordance with the rules applicable to market economy countries. If it cannot be demonstrated that market conditions prevail, "analogue country" data will be used.

 

This Regulation will enter into force on 1 July 1998 and shall apply to all anti-dumping investigations initiated thereafter.

 

Tunisia - imports of olive oil

The Council adopted a Regulation laying down general rules for the importation of olive oil originating in Tunisia, further to the entry into force on 1 March 1998 of the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement, of which Article 3 Protocol 1 provides for customs duty of 7,81 ECU / 100 kg on imports of 46 000 tonnes / year of untreated olive oil, between 1 January 1996 and 31 December 1999.

The Regulation stipulates that this quota shall be managed by the Commission, and repeals the special arrangements applied pending the entry into force of the Agreement.

 

ECOFIN - Directive on settlement finality in payment and securities settlement systems *

The Council adopted the Directive on settlement finality in payment and securities settlement systems, thereby concluding the co-decision procedure with the European Parliament. The relevant common position was approved by the Council on 13 October 1997. In adopting the Directive, the Council was able to accept the three amendments voted by the European Parliament on 29 January dealing with transfer orders entered into a system after insolvency proceedings have been opened against a participant, and with the conditions Member States may impose on payment and securities settlement systems.

The aim of the Directive is to reduce systematic risk in payment and securities settlement systems and to minimize the disruption to a system caused by insolvency proceedings against a participant in a system, by stipulating

- that transfer orders and netting are legally enforceable and binding on third parties in the event of insolvency proceedings against a participant in a system,

- that collateral security provided in connection with participation in a system shall not be affected by insolvency proceedings against the participant which provided the collateral security.

The Directive in addition covers collateral security provided in connection with operations of the central banks of the Member States and the future European Central Bank.

The Directive thus contributes towards improving the efficiency of payment and securities settlement systems in the European Union and the development of the necessary legal framework for the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union.

 

 

BUDGET - Adjustment of the financial perspective

The Council approved, for its part, the decision on the adjustment of the financial perspective to take account of the conditions of implementation of the budget in 1997, in accordance with the 1993 Interinstitutional agreement.

By virtue of this decision the ceiling for appropriations for commitments of heading 2 (Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds) of the financial perspective will be raised by

ECU 1 534 in 1999, at current prices (Structural Funds by 1 433 million, Cohesion Fund by 101 million).

With regard to appropriations for payments, the overall ceiling will be raised by ECU 300 million in 1999 at current prices.

It should be noted that at the end of March the European Parliament's representatives agreed on this adjustment of the financial perspective.

 

JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS - Joint actions on asylum budget lines for 1998

The Council adopted two joint actions concerning the financing of specific projects "in favour of displaced persons who have found temporary protection in the Member States and asylum-seekers" and "in favour of asylum-seekers and refugees".

These joint actions will establish, like those adopted in 1997, an interim legal basis necessary for expenditure in 1998 under budget lines B7-6008 and B5-803, in view of the Commission's intention to table a proposal for a definite legal basis later this year.

The first joint action concerns projects aimed at facilitating the voluntary repatriation of displaced persons who have found temporary protection in the Member States and asylum-seekers (i.a. education and vocational training, aid to transport). The aggregate cost of the specific projects will not exceed ECU 13 million.

The second joint action concerns projects intended to improve admission facilities for asylum seekers and refugees in the Member States, for a total cost of max ECU 3.75 million.

Rules for project approval (comitology procedure) vary depending on the amount to be financed (less than ECU 200 000, more than ECU 200 000 but less than ECU 1 million, more than 1 million).

Both joint actions will provide for a legal and financial basis to the implementation of the Action Plan on the influx of migrants from Iraq and the neighbouring region, adopted by the General Affairs Council on 26 January 1998.

 

 

TRANSPORT - Port State control *

The Council adopted, by unanimity, the Directive amending Council Directive 95/21/EC concerning the enforcement of international standards for ship safety, pollution prevention and shipboard living and working conditions (port State control), in respect of shipping using Community ports and sailing in the waters under the jurisdiction of the Member States.

Directive 95/21/EC provides in particular for each Member State to inspect a given percentage of ships entering its ports in order to establish whether they comply with the principal international conventions in force as regards maritime safety and the protection of the marine environment.

The adopted Directive amends this Directive with a view to:

– imposing port control of the more stringent standards resulting from the recent amendments to certain major maritime conventions, namely the MARPOL, SOLAS and STCW Conventions;

– obliging port State control authorities to check implementation of the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships (ISM Code) on board all ships ;

– establishing specific procedures for ships not carrying ISM Certificates on board;

– extending the scope of the Committee procedure.

 

APPOINTMENTS

Economic and Social Committee

The Council adopted Decisions appointing as members of the Economic and Social Committee

- Mr A.A. JAARSMA in place of Mr Antoon STOKKERS, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 20 September 1998,

- Mrs J.F.E. van der HOOFT in place of Ms H.C.J. van den BURG, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 20 September 1998, and

- Mr E.E. EHNMARK in place of Mr A. LÖNNBERG, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 20 September 1998.