The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
Mr Frans VAN DAELE Ambassador, Permanent Representative
Mr Niels Helveg PETERSEN Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Frïs Arne PETERSEN State Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Mr Klaus KINKEL Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Werner HOYER Minister of State, Foreign Affairs
Mr Theodoros PANGALOS Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Georgios PAPANDREOU Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Ramón de MIGUEL State Secretary for European Affairs
Mr Pierre de BOISSIEU Ambassador, Permanent Representative
Mr David ANDREWS Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Lamberto DINI Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Piero FASSINO State Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Mr Jacques F. POOS Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Georges WOHLFART State Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Mr Hans VAN MIERLO Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Michiel PATIJN State Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Mr Wolfgang SCHÜSSEL Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Jaime GAMA Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Francisco SEIXAS de COSTA State Secretary for European Affairs
Ms Tarja HALONEN Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Leif FAGERNAS Head of Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr Gunnar LUND State Secretary for European Affairs
Mr Robin COOK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Ms Clare SHORT Secretary of State for International Development
Mr Doug HENDERSON Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
* * *
Mr Jacques SANTER President
Mr João de Deus PINHEIRO Member
Mr Hans VAN DEN BROEK Member
FUTURE EU-ACP RELATIONS OPEN DEBATE
The Council held a preliminary debate, which was broadcast on television, of the major political guidelines proposed by the Commission for the negotiation of new cooperation agreements with the ACP States on the expiry of the Lomé Convention in February 2000.
The Council declared itself in agreement with the Commission in recognizing the need to revitalize the ACP-EU partnership and in pursuing with the ACP States an active development cooperation policy which constitutes an essential element in the European Union's external action. The Council's discussions showed that there is a general consensus that cooperation with the ACP States should have a more pronounced political dimension. There is also agreement on placing the fight against poverty at the heart of the new partnership and on simplifying and rationalizing the cooperation instruments to make them more efficient and flexible. Finally, it was recognized that there should be some degree of differentiation based on specific regional characteristics and development levels.
As regards procedure, the Council asked the Commission to take the utmost account of Member States' comments when preparing the draft negotiating mandate which it would submit to the Council at the very beginning of 1998 in preparation for the negotiations with the ACP States which would begin in Autumn 1998.
AGENDA 2000 ENLARGEMENT
The Council held an in-depth discussion on reinforcing the pre-accession strategy for the associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
On the basis of a report from the Presidency, the Council agreed on the components of the strategy, although the financial aspects for 2000-2006 were still unresolved and would be spelled out in the more general context of the discussions on the "Santer package" (Agenda 2000).
As regards accession partnerships, it was agreed that the Council would intervene at the most significant points in partnerships, while avoiding a cumbersome procedure.
The Council's discussion revealed that the vast majority of delegations were in agreement on the compromise option put forward by the Presidency. This consists in providing, after the Luxembourg Council, for the adoption of a Regulation (based on Article 235 TEC) designed to constitute a basis for approval via Council decisions by a qualified majority of individual partnerships and the application of conditionality in politically important cases.
The Council therefore invited Coreper to finalize proceedings to enable this dossier to be completed by the next meeting of the General Affairs Council.
PREPARATION FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY EUROPEAN COUNCIL ON EMPLOYMENT
The Council was briefed by the Presidency on the progress of preparation for the extraordinary European Council on employment.
In particular, the Presidency gave some details of the summary report on the preparatory work which it will be submitting to the joint ECOFIN/Labour and Social Affairs Council on 17 November next, taking account of the outcome of the ECOFIN and Labour and Social Affairs Councils on 5 and 6 November.
The Council took note of the Secretary-General's report on the integration of the Schengen Secretariat into the Council Secretariat, which had been sent to Coreper for detailed examination with a view to a substantive discussion at one of its meetings in the near future. The Council invited the Schengen Secretariat to give its opinion on the Secretary-General's report.
The Council also took note of the Secretary-General's report on establishment of the Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit, provided for in the statement annexed to the Final Act of the Amsterdam Treaty.
The Council agreed to come back to this subject at a forthcoming meeting. It instructed Coreper and the appropriate bodies to prepare for the Council's future proceedings on the basis of the Secretary-General's report and in the light of the day's discussion, in preparation for a political decision by the Council as soon as possible.
The Council held a discussion on relations with Turkey in preparation for the meeting with Turkey at ministerial level scheduled for 24 November. Since the examination of the Commission communication on the further development of relations with Turkey has not yet been completed, the Union will propose to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Euro-Mediterranean Conference that the meeting should be informal. It will be followed by a top-level visit by the Presidency and the Commission to Ankara on 27 November.
In this context, Mr PANGALOS informed the Council of the outcome of the Balkan Conference held in Crete on 3 and 4 November, alongside which the Greek Prime Minister, Mr SIMITIS had an interview with his Turkish opposite number, Mr YILMAZ.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
The Council held an exchange of views on progress of the peace process and the message which Council President Mr POOS will take to all the parties on his tour of the region from 10 to 14 November, during which he will visit Cairo, Amman, Damascus, Jerusalem, Gaza and Beirut.
The aim of the mission, agreed at the informal meeting in Mondorf, is for the Union to make a contribution to relaunching the peace process, particularly by taking concrete measures such as the establishment of a Code of Conduct, EU support for opening up Gaza airport and port and encouraging free passage between the autonomous territories of the West Bank and Gaza.
The Presidency has had contacts with the American Secretary of State and the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs with the aim of coordinating the EU position with both countries.
The Council briefly took stock of the negotiations with Switzerland. It instructed Coreper to submit a full report for its next meeting on 24 November, with the aim of achieving the conditions for bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion.
The Council took note of a statement by the Swedish delegation on the development of relations with Russia and agreed to hold a policy debate on the subject at its next meeting on 24 November.
The aim of that debate will be to prepare for the first meeting of the Cooperation Council with Russia which is scheduled for 8 December, following the entry into force of the partnership and cooperation agreement on 1 December.
The Council took stock of the general situation in Albania and of international action taken to help the country. It welcomed the outcome of the Rome Ministerial Conference on 17 October 1997 and the Donors' Conference held in Brussels on 22 October 1997 at which the Community and the Member States announced substantial contributions. The Council also welcomed the encouraging signs resulting from the undertakings given by the new Albanian Government after last summer's elections.
The EU will continue to keep a close eye on developments in Albania and to provide its assistance, exploiting all the possibilities offered by the 1992 Trade and Cooperation Agreement. In particular, there are plans to hold an early meeting of the Joint Committee set up by the Agreement, possibly in Tirana, and to resume the political dialogue meetings.
The Council will return to this dossier in 1998 with a view to the forthcoming international meetings already planned on the subject of Albania and instructs Coreper to prepare for them in accordance with Community procedures.
The Council held an exchange of views on the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It stressed the importance of implementing the results of the municipal elections in full. It regretted that Bosnia-Herzegovina's central institutions no longer functioned as they should. With a view to the Ministerial Conference of the PIC (Peace Implementation Council) in Bonn on 9 and 10 December 1997, the Council agreed to keep up the pressure on the parties, in close cooperation with the High Representative.
In this context, the Council took note of the message which the PIC Steering Committee had adopted at Sarajevo on 6 November 1997. The Council gave the message its unequivocal backing and stated again that the EU fully supports the efforts of the High Representative to make significant progress in the very short term.
The Council considered the situation in the Republika Srpska in the run-up to the legislative elections scheduled for 22 and 23 November 1997 and recalled its decision of 1997 on support by the European Union for the OSCE monitoring operation. The Council emphasized the importance of ensuring free access to the media during the electoral process and expressed its support for the efforts of the High Representative in that direction.
As regards the FRY, the Council held a discussion on the situation following the elections in Serbia and Montenegro. It looked into the question of relations between the European Union and the FRY in the short term. It adopted the statement in Annex I (see page 11) addressed to the people of the FRY.
Moreover, the Council adopted conclusions assessing the situation in the countries of South-East Europe with regard to the EU conditionality strategy adopted by the Council on 29 April 1997, which are in Annex II (see page 12).
Declaration by the European Union
concerning the FRY
1. The European Union, recognising the important role the FRY has to play in the region and in Europe, wishes to set out its policy clearly to the people of the FRY.
2. It is a policy based on a fair approach to and equal opportunities for all the countries of the region.
3. The Union wishes to see a FRY that is peaceful, prosperous and democratic, one that has taken its rightful place in the European family. That requires the FRY to live up to the same standards as the rest of Europe.
4. Many of the countries in the Union have faced economic problems similar to those that now beset you. It is wrong to believe that there are easy and simple solutions to the problems the FRY faces. The lesson of the last forty years is that it is by working together with other Europeans that economic well-being is most speedily restored.
5. The rhetoric of nationalism and ethnicity has no place in modern Europe. The policies that lie behind it have failed the FRY, and brought you, its people, to amongst the poorest in the region. Neither the EU nor the international community is to blame for this.
6. The EU urges cooperation with the international community to build a fully democratic FRY, enjoying a genuinely free press, with equality of opportunity for all, an open and modern economy that brings benefits to all, and an impartial judicial system.
7. The EU has the same expectations of all the countries in the region: full respect for democracy and human rights, a commitment to work for a just peace through implementation of the Dayton agreement, including by full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, and the other accords that ended the war; good neighbourliness, and a constructive approach to solving the ethnic and minority problems of the region, in particular in Kosovo. Real progress in these areas would enable the EU to develop further its relations with your country.
8. You must together choose how best to bring the FRY to its rightful and prosperous place in the community of nations.
Former Yugoslavia and Albania: Conditionality Conclusions
The Council reviewed the situation in the countries of Southeast Europe covered by the Conditionality Strategy (adopted on 29 April 1997) and the Regional Approach (adopted on 26 February 1996). During discussions based on contributions from the Commission and the Member States, the Council focused especially on progress made in the following areas: compliance with democratic principles, respect for human rights and the rule of law, economic reform, promotion of regional cooperation and compliance with and implementation of the obligations arising from the Peace Agreements.
The discussions resulted in the following overall assessment:
1. Bosnia and Herzegovina:
The establishment of common institutions and the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina is far behind schedule. The Council deplores the fact that progress on certain points ("quick start package", return of the first refugees, holding of local elections in the two entities) has only been achieved under strong pressure from the international community. Progress in the areas mentioned is particularly slow, especially but not only in Republika Srpska, where the political situation continues to give cause for concern.
Although there has been some progress, notably in cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal, Croatia has not complied with all the obligations arising from the Dayton/Paris and Erdut Agreements. The efforts made to improve relations with neighbouring states should continue and the Croat authorities should ensure that refugees and displaced persons can actually return. In addition, the rule of law should be consolidated.
3. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia:
Despite some recent encouraging signs in the field of economic reform, substantial progress is still needed. The FRY has not yet shown sufficient commitment to the path of democratic reform and respect for human rights and minorities. In addition, the obligations arising from the Peace Agreements are not being fully complied with. No progress has been made towards granting Kosovo a large degree of autonomy
within the borders of the FRY. However, there has been some improvement in the area of regional cooperation.
4. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
The Council notes that overall the FYROM respects democratic principles. The efforts deployed in the areas of human rights, the rule of law, respect for and protection of minorities, economic reform and relations with neighbouring countries are encouraging. Additional effort will be necessary in the areas of inter-ethnic relations and economic reform.
The Council has already welcomed the successful conduct of Albania's latest elections after a period of very serious tension. It has noted the new government's determination to move forward in a spirit of reconciliation on the path of democracy and the rule of law towards the improvement of security conditions and economic stabilization. Albania should be encouraged to continue along this path and to press ahead with its prudent and constructive approach in relations with neighbouring countries.
On the basis of this overall assessment, the Council considered possible guidelines for the practical use of the various instruments (autonomous trade preferences, implementation of the PHARE programme, contractual relations) to which the conditionality strategy refers:
In view of the graduated approach of the strategy, the Council took the view that for the countries of the former Yugoslavia already benefitting from autonomous trade measures no more than possible renewal of those trade preferences for 1998 should be considered at this stage. Once the Commission has submitted the relevant proposals, the Council will examine them, taking fair account of both the above overall assessment and of developments since then in the countries concerned.
With regard to Community assistance, including its assistance to Republika Srpska, the Council stressed the importance it attached to projects likely to serve the peace process (particularly those designed to build cross-entity links and encourage the return of refugees) and media-related projects.
In the area of contractual relations, the Cooperation Agreement, including the Financial Protocol, and the Transport Agreement between the Community and the FYROM are due to enter into force shortly.
With regard to Albania, the Council recalled its intention of reactivating the Cooperation Agreement signed in 1992 by convening the Joint Committee and a meeting devoted to political dialogue in the near future. The EU intends to continue providing assistance, in particular through the PHARE programme.
In about six months' time the Council intends to update its overall assessment of the countries concerned for the purpose of working out guidelines under the Conditionality Strategy adopted on 29 April 1997.
Adopted without debate
Laos Cooperation Agreement
The Council approved on behalf of the Community the Cooperation Agreement signed with Laos on 29 April 1997.
The agreement contains provisions on human rights and a non-fulfilment clause applicable in the event of one Party failing to fulfil its obligations under the Agreement similar to those in other agreements recently signed by the Community.
The main objectives of the Agreement are:
(a) the parties agree to accord each other most-favoured-nation treatment on trade in goods in all areas specifically covered by the Agreement, save as regards advantages accorded by either Party within the context of customs unions or free trade areas, trade arrangements with neighbouring countries or specific obligations under international commodity agreements;
(b) to promote and intensify trade between the Parties, and to encourage the steady expansion of sustainable economic cooperation, in accordance with the principles of equality and mutual advantage;
(c) to strengthen cooperation in fields closely related to economic progress and benefiting both Parties;
(d) to develop lasting trade relations and diversify trade between the Community and the Lao PDR, to achieve a lasting opening-up of markets to a degree which is compatible with the Parties economic situations and the assistance which the Lao PDR will need in the light of its application to join the WTO;
(e) to contribute to the Lao PDRs efforts to improve the quality of life and standards of living of the poorest sections of its population, together with measures using rural development to combat poverty in the countryside and assistance with achieving the transition to a market economy and developing human resources in a number of sectors of the economy;
(f) to encourage job creation in both the Community and the Lao PDR, with priority being accorded to programmes and operations which could have a favourable effect in this respect.
(g) to take the requisite measures to protect and conserve the world, regional, national and local environments and manage natural resources sustainably, taking account of the links between the environment and development.
The agreement provides for cooperation on trade, economic and development issues, science and technology, intellectual property rights, the environment including protection of forests, clearance of mines, human resources development, energy, regional cooperation, drug abuse control as well as on readmission of citizens.
The agreement also provides for the Community to step up its cooperation with Laos in the field of financial and technical assistance under Council Regulation (EEC) No 443/92 of 25 February 1992 concerning the developing countries in Asia and Latin America.
A Joint Committee will be set up to ensure the proper functioning of the Agreement.
The agreement is concluded for five years; it includes a future-developments clause.
Yemen Cooperation Agreement
The Council decided to sign the Cooperation Agreement with Yemen at the Council meeting on 24 November 1997.
The Agreement includes the usual human rights and non-fulfilment clauses.
It is a non-preferential agreement designed to create a contractual framework for wide-ranging cooperation with Yemen: commercial and economic, development, agriculture and fisheries, environment, tourism, regional cooperation, science and technology, the fight against drugs and money laundering, social development and human resources and information, culture and communications. A future developments clause allows the parties the possibility of extending their cooperation.
The Council approved the amendment of Regulation No 1628/96 of 25 July 1996 on aid to the countries of former Yugoslavia Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia reducing the time limits laid down in the Annex for restricted invitations to tender. As stipulated in that Regulation, the Annex relating to the award of contracts by means of tendering must be complied with by the Commission as of 1 January 1998.
Poland Agreement on the modernization of the oil sector
The Council approved the agreement with Poland on the modernization of the Polish oil sector.
This Agreement formalizes the agreement in principle arrived at in the course of the consultations which took place in October 1996 following Poland's decision to adopt certain protective measures as part of a restructuring plan for the oil sector in particular, Poland had, as of 1 January 1996, increased customs duties on imports of petroleum products from the EC.
The Agreement includes the following aspects:
greater flexibility in the tariff system with a view to complete dismantling on 1 January 2001;
a commitment by Poland to liberalize prices of petroleum products in Poland;
other commitments on the Polish side, relating to pressing ahead with the programmes for privatization and modernization of refineries, increasing emergency reserves, equal treatment by Polish refineries for all purchasers and the lifting of all quantitative restrictions on the import of petroleum products;
the holding of regular meetings between the two parties to monitor implementation of the various measures.
The Council approved on behalf of the Community the Agreement with China on trade in textile products not covered by the MFA bilateral Agreement. That Agreement, initialled on 9 December 1988 and extended and modified on 8 December 1992, has been provisionally implemented since 1 January 1995.
Textiles Cambodia, Laos and Nepal
The Council authorized the Commission to negotiate bilateral agreements on trade in textile products with Cambodia, Laos and Nepal. The negotiations will be held in close consultation with the Member States.
Textiles Latvia and Lithuania
The Council authorized the Commission to negotiate agreements with Latvia and Lithuania with a view to extending and amending certain provisions concerning trade in textile products contained in the Free Trade Agreements concluded with these countries. The negotiations will be held in close consultation with the Member States.