6810/00 (Presse 73)

 

PRESS RELEASE

Subject :

2249th Council meeting

- GENERAL AFFAIRS -

Brussels, 20 March 2000

 

 

President :

Mr Jaime GAMA

Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Portuguese Republic

 

CONTENTS

 

PARTICIPANTS *

 

ITEMS DEBATED

PREPARATION OF THE SPECIAL EUROPEAN COUNCIL MEETING *

2nd MINISTERIAL SESSION OF THE IGC 2000 *

COMMON EUROPEAN SECURITY AND DEFENCE POLICY - CONCLUSIONS *

MOZAMBIQUE - CONCLUSIONS *

AFRICA-EUROPE SUMMIT *

CONFLICTS IN AFRICA *

WESTERN BALKANS - CONCLUSIONS *

ECONOMIC SITUATION OF BULGARIA AND ROMANIA *

56TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS - GENEVA, MARCH-APRIL 2000 *

- CHINA - CONCLUSIONS *

- DEATH PENALTY *

RUSSIA / CHECHNYA- CONCLUSIONS *

STATUTE FOR MEMBERS OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT *

REDUCTION OF NUMBER OF COUNCIL FORMATIONS *

FREE-LANCE INTERPRETERS *

 

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE *

EXTERNAL RELATIONS *

- Second EC-Mexico Joint Council *

- Arms embargo on Ethiopia and Eritrea *

- European Union assistance for mine clearance in Croatia *

- Resignation of Mr. Roumeliotis, EU Special Representative for the Royaumont Process *

- Indonesia - Council conclusions *

- United Nations finances - Council conclusions *

- Exceptional financial assistance to Tajikistan * *

- Exception for the EFTA States in the field of audiovisual services *

- Enlargement - accession partnership with Cyprus and Malta *

- Association Council EU-Romania *

TRADE QUESTIONS *

- Control of exports of dual-use goods *

- Imports of agricultural products following the accident at the Chernobyl * *

TAXATION *

- Sixth VAT Directive - derogation for Netherlands *

PROGRESS ACHIEVED BY THE EUROPEAN UNION IN 1999 *

_________________

For further information call 285 87 04, 285 81 11

PARTICIPANTS

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

Belgium :

Mr Louis MICHEL

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr André FLAHAUT

Minister for Defence

Mr Pierre CHEVALIER

State Secretary for Foreign Trade

Denmark :

Mr Niels HELVEG PETERSEN

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Hans HÆKKERUP

Minister for Defence

Mr Friis Arne PETERSEN

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Germany :

Mr Joschka FISCHER

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Rudolf SCHARPING

Federal Minister for Defence

Mr Christoph ZÖPEL

Minister of State, Foreign Affairs

Greece :

Mr George PAPANDREOU

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Apostolos-Athanasios TSOCHATZOPOULOS

Minister for Defence

Mr Christos ROKOFYLLOS

Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs

Spain :

Mr Abel MATUTES

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Eduardo SERRA REXACH

Minister for Defence

Mr Ramón de MIGUEL

State Secretary for Foreign Policy

France :

Mr Hubert VEDRINE

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Alain RICHARD

Minister for Defence

Mr Pierre MOSCOVICI

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

Ireland :

Mr Brian COWEN

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Michael SMITH

Minister for Defence

Italy :

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

Minister for Defence

Mr Umberto RANIERI

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Luxembourg :

Ms Lydie POLFER

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Charles GOERENS

Minister for Cooperation, Humanitarian Intervention and Defence

Netherlands :

Mr Jozias VAN AARTSEN

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Frank de GRAVE

Minister for Defence

Mr Dick BENSCHOP

State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Austria :

Ms Benita FERRERO-WALDNER

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Herbert SCHEIBNER

Minister for Defence

Portugal :

Mr Jaime GAMA

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Júlio CASTRO CALDAS

Minister for Defence

Mr Francisco SEIXAS da COSTA

State Secretary for European Affairs

Finland :

Mr Erkki TUOMIOJA

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Jan-Erik ENESTAM

Minister for Defence

Mr Kimmo SASI

Minister of Foreign Trade and European Affairs

Sweden :

Mr Anne LINDH

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Björn VON SYDOW

Minister for Defence

United-Kingdom :

Mr Robin COOK

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Mr Keith VAZ

Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Baroness SYMANS of VERNHAM DEAN

Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Minister for Defence Procurement

* * *

Commission :

Mr Romano PRODI

President

Mr Michel BARNIER

Member

Mr Poul NIELSON

Member

Mr Christopher PATTEN

Member

Mr Günter VERHEUGEN

Member

* * *

General Secretariat of the Council :

Mr Javier SOLANA

Secretary General / High Representative for CFSP

Mr Pierre de BOISSIEU

Deputy Secretary General

 

 

 

 

 

 

PREPARATION OF THE SPECIAL EUROPEAN COUNCIL MEETING

The Council expressed its satisfaction at the state of maturity reached in the preparation of the Special European Council in Lisbon on 23/24 March, with respect to the main theme "Employment, Economic reforms and Social cohesion: towards a Europe based in innovation and knowledge".

The Council also took note of the indications given by the Presidency on the programme - in addition to the main item: situation in the Balkans, Presidency report on Strengthening the Common Security and Defence Policy, state of play with regard to the Intergovernmental Conference on institutional reform, and in the margins: 2nd Joint Council with Mexico (Thursday end of morning). As for the organisation of this meeting, three table rounds are foreseen for the main subject, one on Thursday morning devoted to the overall strategic objective and to the information society, and two on Thursday afternoon, devoted respectively to the economic and social dimensions.

 

* * *

 

2nd MINISTERIAL SESSION OF THE IGC 2000

The 2nd Ministerial IGC - held in the margins of the Council - was preceded by a meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Ms FONTAINE and the EP Representatives in the preparatory group, Mr BROCK and Mr TSATSOS. During this meeting the President of the Representatives group, State Secretary SEIXAS da COSTA, presented a report on the state of work reached at his group.

In the Ministerial IGC session the two following issues were discussed by Ministers: the composition/structure of the Commission and the participation/weighting of Member States in the decision making process in the Council.

 

COMMON EUROPEAN SECURITY AND DEFENCE POLICY - CONCLUSIONS

The Council, with the participation of Ministers of Defence, had a comprehensive discussion on progress in the European Security and Defence Policy in the follow-up to the Helsinki European Council, addressing both the military and the civilian tracks of ESDP.

The Council endorsed the draft Presidency Report to the Lisbon European Council "Strengthening the Common European Security and Defence Policy", expressing its full appreciation for what has been achieved so far both in the military and non-military tracks of crisis management.

Building on discussion at the informal meeting of Defence Ministers in Sintra on 28 February 2000, the Council identified the process for further elaborating the headline and capability goals. It concluded that the "food for thought" paper on the "Elaboration of the headline goal", including the timetable set out therein leading to a Capabilities Pledging Conference to be convened by the end of 2000, constitutes a basis for future work to be conducted by the competent bodies. The Council also adopted the document on "Military bodies in the EU and the planning and conduct of EU-led operations" as a basis for future work to be conducted by the interim military bodies and other competent bodies.

The Council considered the establishment of a Committee for civilian crisis management and agreed to continue to define its role and competencies along the lines described in the paper "Establishment of a EU committee for civilian crisis management" with a view to reaching a decision on the establishment of such a committee by or at Feira. The Council asked COREPER to contribute to clarifying institutional questions that arise with respect to Community competencies and the position of such a committee within the EU institutional framework.

 

 

 

 

MOZAMBIQUE - CONCLUSIONS

The Council has followed closely and with great concern the situation in Mozambique as well as in other countries in the region, including Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, where the flooding has been one of the most serious catastrophes to have occurred in recent years.

The Council expresses its solidarity with the people and government of Mozambique and the other countries of the region as they grapple with the devastating consequences of the flooding and its sympathy with them as they set about rebuilding their shattered lives.

The Council has taken note of the conclusions of the mission to Mozambique from 2 - 4 March, shortly after the Mozambique government asked for help, by the President of the Development Council, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Development Cooperation, Mr AMADO, and the Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian aid, Mr NIELSON, to assess the scale of the damage and identify priority needs.

The Council has noted that the Member States and the Community have to date pledged over 85 MEUROS in emergency humanitarian aid as well as further aid in kind. The Council has underlined that this represents the major share of international contributions reported by the UN (OCHA) which amount to 115 MEUROS so far. In addition, the Council has noted with satisfaction the solidarity shown by the EU's citizens in their generous response to the appeals for assistance.

The Council has recognised that the lead role in relief co-ordination lies with the Mozambique government's Department of Disaster Management in liaison with the UN agencies. The Council has placed great emphasis on the need to ensure effective coordination both internally and with the Community so that there is no duplication of effort and that the aid provided has maximum impact.

The Council has also recognised the broader impact this catastrophe is likely to have on Mozambique's economy and development. It has endorsed the Mozambique government's twin-track approach aiming at meeting the immediate needs for relief while working to rehabilitate affected areas and to ensure both macro-economic stability and the maintenance of on-going programmes of development assistance.

To this end, several Member States and the Community have already announced a total of 66.5 MEURO in aid for rehabilitation and budgetary support and a further 156 MEURO in debt relief. The Council has noted that in addition to this support, 100 MEUROS were disbursed in 1999 in Mozambique under the Community's co-operation programme and up to 150 MEUROS are expected to be disbursed in 2000.

The Member States and the Community will continue to participate actively in Maputo in the coordination of rehabilitation being led by the Mozambique government and looks forward to making a positive contribution to the donor conference to be held in Rome at the end of April/beginning of May.

 

 

 

 

AFRICA-EUROPE SUMMIT

The Council took note of the state of play with regard to the preparation of the Africa-Europe Summit to be held in Cairo on 3/4 April and to the draft EU texts for the Declaration and Plan of Action to be adopted on that occasion.

It noted that the EU Troika and the group of countries responsible for the preparations on the African side are currently working on draft joint texts. The Council also noted that these texts will be finalised, for submission to the Summit, at a joint Africa-EU Ministerial meeting to be held in Cairo on 2 April.

 

 

CONFLICTS IN AFRICA

In accordance with the Council's conclusions of 24 January 2000, the Secretary General/High Representative for CFSP submitted his views to the Council on how the EU could contribute to a solution to the conflicts in Africa, in particular in the Great Lakes Region.

The Council mandated its competent bodies to pursue their work on the basis of the discussion paper presented by the Secretary General/High Representative and in the light of Member States contributions in today's session and to make early recommendations for specific action which the EU could take. The Council agreed to proceed to a substantial debate on the matter, possibly already at its April session.

 

 

 

WESTERN BALKANS - CONCLUSIONS

FRY/KOSOVO

The Council deplored the deterioration of the security situation in and around Kosovo, notably in Mitrovica and in Presevo/Southern Serbia. It condemned the attacks against the KFOR and UNMIK presence and extremism from both sides. It also emphasised the crucial importance of securing the administrative border between Serbia and Kosovo and of stopping the illegal trafficking across all Kosovo borders. The Council urged political leaders in Kosovo to use their influence to take urgent action to prevent further incidents and disorder, by rejecting violence and extremism, by expelling extremists from their midst, by supporting UNMIK and KFOR and by having recourse exclusively to peaceful and democratic means. The Council reminded those leaders that they will be held accountable for any further spread of violence.

The Council reiterated its full support for UNMIK and KFOR efforts to ensure implementation of UNSCR 1244 in all its aspects. The Council welcomed recent decisions by Member States to increase significantly their contributions to the UN international police and KFOR, in terms of financial and technical support as well as human resources. 

The Council recalled its commitment to the process of democratisation in Kosovo. In this light it reiterated its call to the Kosovo Serb leaders to participate in the Joint Interim Administrative Structures in order to contribute to the coexistence and the democratisation of Kosovo in conformity with UNSCR 1244. Only a sharing of responsibilities by representatives of minorities will pave the way for a multi-ethnic Kosovo.

The Council recalled that it attached the utmost importance to the thorough preparation by UNMIK of the local elections to be held later this year. It called on UNMIK and OSCE to take all necessary steps to ensure proper preparation of these elections, including voter registration, which is due to start in April, and to put in place arrangements for absentee balloting and participation by minorities.

 

The Council recalled that for the period 1999/2000 in response to the Kosovo crisis, in addition to the important bilateral assistance by Member States, massive resources had been allocated by the EC. Humanitarian aid in the region in favour of Kosovo refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees will have amounted to 428 Meuro, while reconstruction and exceptional finance assistance, including support to UNMIK will between 1999 and 2000, total 437 Meuro. It also underlined the importance that UNMIK, in particular the EU pillar, has the expertise and resources it needs to accomplish this vital task. The Council reiterated its strong view that international support for Kosovo, including that of the European Union, recently reasserted through the visits of SG/HR Solana and Commissioner Patten to the region, is dependent on cooperation from the leaderships and people of Kosovo, in particular their commitment to democratic and peaceful means.

FRY/SERBIA

Recalling the Presidency's statement of 3 March on the violation of the right to freedom of expression in Serbia, the Council condemned increasing threats and harassment against independent media and democratic opposition by President Milosevic's regime as unacceptable discriminatory policy aimed at clamping down on any dissenting, independent voices.

The Council welcomed the recent agreement on a common "Platform" by the democratic opposition of Serbia and strongly urged FRY democratic forces to intensify their efforts to build a unified front capable of representing a strong and credible alternative to the Milosevic regime. It recalled that a united democratic opposition is crucial for bringing political changes to the FRY.

In the overall policy framework of applying maximum pressure on Milosevic and not penalising the Serbian population, the Council underlined the importance of continued support, notably through humanitarian assistance and through the "Energy for Democracy Programme". The Council recalled that it will keep the question of sanctions under review in the light of future developments.

 

Recalling its conclusions of 14-15 February 2000 and its Decision 2000/177/CFSP of 28 February, which extended the scope of the visa restrictions enlarging the visa ban list, the Council adopted a Council Regulation suspending the flight ban for a period of six months ( 1).

The Council invited Coreper to finalise its examination of the Commission proposal for a Council regulation to enhance the effectiveness of existing financial sanctions with a view to adoption before the end of the month.

DANUBE

The Council again stressed the urgency of resolving the various obstacles to freedom of navigation of the Danube, and encouraged the Danube Commission to take the necessary steps to enable the European Commission to proceed further with the Danube Commission's project proposal with a view to early implementation.

FRY/MONTENEGRO

The Council emphasised the European Union's support for Montenegro and its democratically elected Government. It recalled the assistance provided so far and reiterated its readiness to continue to assist Montenegro. It took note of the needs assessment presented by the Commission and of the information concerning current Community assistance and that the Commission would continue to provide assistance, including food aid, assistance from the OBNOVA Programme and humanitarian assistance.

 

With a view to reinforcing support to Montenegro, the Council urged the Commission to identify projects which in a targeted way could help ease Montenegro's budgetary constraints and to explore means for further assistance. It invited the European Investment Bank to study an extension of its activities to Montenegro. Recalling its conclusions of November 1999, it invited the Commission to consider a proposal to the Council to include Montenegro in the remit of the Reconstruction Agency.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

The Council took note of the request by the Bosnian authorities for a feasibility study on the opening of negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The Council welcomed the Commission's initiative on a Road Map for Bosnia and Herzegovina to help paving the way toward a feasibility study. It calls on the authorities in BiH to commit themselves unreservedly to taking this initiative forward in the EU/BiH Consultative Task Force. The Council also stressed that the pace of progress will depend on the readiness of the BiH authorities to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the Stabilisation and Association process and reiterated the need to implement fully the New York declaration of November 1999.

STABILITY PACT

The Council fully supported the efforts by the Special Co-ordinator, the European Commission and the World Bank, aimed at achieving a substantive outcome of the 29/30 March Regional Funding Conference and to put together a credible quick start projects package. The conference is part of a longer-term process to bring peace, stability and economic development to the region. It should give a strong impetus to the Pact's goal of reinvigorating the political and economic reform processes and stimulating regional co-operation by beneficiary countries themselves and through the support of the international community.

 

 

Stressing that the Regional Financing Conference and Stability Pact are part of an ongoing process and signify a mutual commitment, the Council stressed that EU support must be matched by credible and consistent reforms by countries in the region. To that end, the Council, recalling its conclusions of 14-15 February 2000 on conditionality, requested beneficiary countries to present their detailed commitments regarding the implementation of the objectives of the Stability Pact. The Council stressed the need for regular monitoring of progress in the region towards achieving the goals set for the reforms.

The EU will continue to play a leading role in the stability pact initiatives and will prepare its position in view of the Regional Funding Conference. To that end, the Commission was invited to present urgently a detailed proposal for the Union's contribution to this Conference.

ECMM

The Council underlined its wish for a restructured, flexible and streamlined ECMM meeting defined operational requirements. The ECMM should be answerable to the Council through the SG/HR, and its functions reviewed by the relevant bodies on a regular basis, to ensure that it acts as a means of supporting the EU's common foreign and security policy.

The Council took note of the progress made in the discussions on the future of ECMM. It invited the competent bodies to urgently finalise the plan for the restructuring of ECMM, with a view to the early preparation and adoption of an appropriate legal basis.

 

 

ECONOMIC SITUATION OF BULGARIA AND ROMANIA

The Council took note of the information provided by the Commission on the macro-economic situation in Bulgaria and Romania. It stressed the importance for these countries to pursue reforms aimed at the restructuring of their economies.

 

 

56TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS - GENEVA, MARCH-APRIL 2000

- CHINA - CONCLUSIONS

1. In accordance with its conclusions of 22 March 1999, in the light of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue and on the eve of the 56th UN Commission on Human Rights, the Council reviewed its policy towards Human Rights in China.

2. The Council welcomed China's stated willingness to cooperate with UN Human Rights mechanisms and urged China to step up efforts to that end. The EU in particular encourages China to ratify the UN Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights as soon as possible, to cooperate more closely with the CHR Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups, as well as to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

3. The Council reiterated the importance it attaches to the opportunity presented by the EU/China Human Rights Dialogue and Cooperation Programme which allows for joint work for the promotion and respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in China. The Council notes that China has demonstrated willingness to discuss of a number of sensitive issues of common concern in the framework of the dialogue. The EU maintains its position that dialogue is an acceptable option only if enough progress is achieved and reflected on the ground.

4. The Council however regretted that the positive steps taken by China at the international level are not only marking time but also have not been matched by tangible progress in the domestic human rights situation. The EU is deeply concerned by the continuing and widespread restrictions on fundamental freedoms, notably freedom of assembly, expression and association. In particular the EU is dismayed by the fact that the Chinese government has continued to impose harsh sentences on prodemocracy activists and to take severe measures against certain minority groups, particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang. The EU also expresses concern about the number of arrests and the harshness of sentences passed upon followers to the Falun Gong, and about the restrictions and punishments of members of the Christian Church and other religious groups.

 

5. The Council noted with distress the frequent use of the death penalty in China. Furthermore, and notwithstanding the recent reforms in the Chinese legal framework, the number of non-violent crimes, including those of an economic nature, still punishable with the death penalty can scarcely be encompassed within the definition of serious crimes used by the Chinese authorities. The retention of administrative detention camps where people may be detained without appropriate legal assistance and in most cases without a fair trial is a further source of concern which has not been addressed properly by the Chinese authorities.

6. The Council will review the dialogue, with the aim of achieving a more focused and result-oriented approach, particularly in the main areas of EU concern referred to above. Objectives will be identified in these areas and explained publicly, starting with the EU Presidency speech at the 56th CHR, as well as when dealing with country situations, and in agenda points on civil and political rights and thematic issues. The EU will need to assess the future of the dialogue on the basis of the results produced. The EU will continue to express publicly its concerns about human rights in China and to raise them in meetings with China at all levels.

7. The Council shares the concerns expressed by the European Parliament, civil society and NGOs regarding human rights in China. It will continue to keep EU policy on China under regular review, including at CHR 56th.

 

 

- DEATH PENALTY

The Council asked the Political Committee to prepare the EU position on the issue of the death penalty for the purposes of the 56th Session of the UNCHR.

 

 

RUSSIA / CHECHNYA- CONCLUSIONS

The Council, reiterating its deep concern about the situation in Chechnya, renewed its call to the Russian authorities to take immediate steps towards a peaceful solution of the conflict, in particular the establishment of a cease-fire and an end to the use of indiscriminate force as well as the opening of a political dialogue between the Russian Government and representatives of Chechnya. It also expressed concern about the risk of spill-over of the conflict to neighbouring countries.

Deeply concerned about the continued reports of gross violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, and recalling Russian pledges made in Lisbon, the Council urged the Russian authorities to comply with their commitments and rapidly launch full and transparent investigations into alleged human rights violations, according to international law and in cooperation with competent international bodies.

In this context, the Council noted the nomination of the Presidential representative for human rights in Chechnya and looked forward to the opening of his office. Discussions are ongoing with the Russian authorities concerning the possible inclusion of two Council of Europe representatives in this office. These representatives must be granted full independence as well as freedom of movement and contacts. The Council also expected the Presidential representative for human rights to cooperate closely with the OSCE.

The Council continued to be particularly concerned about the serious humanitarian situation in the region, not least in the light of Council of Europe reports after recent visits to Chechnya.

The Council deplored the lack of a response to the EU's specific demands presented to the Russian side in Lisbon, aimed at improving the international relief action in Chechnya, notably through visits by ECHO experts, Moscow based EU diplomats as well as all other interested humanitarian aid organisations. It again appealed to the Russian authorities to guarantee free access and security for NGOs to work on the ground. Furthermore, the Council called for an urgent positive answer to the request of the ICRC for free access to detainees in Chechnya.

 

The Council reiterated its hope for an early return of the OSCE Assistance Group under circumstances that will allow the entirety of its mandate to be fulfilled. The Council regretted that the way the visit of the head of the Assistance Group was organised did not provide a sufficient basis for a decision on its return to the region. Further visits, including one by the special fact finding mission of the Assistance Group to Chechnya, will be needed to assess the situation including the security aspect.

The Council stressed the importance of an international presence in Chechnya and noted the Russian invitations to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Chairperson in office of the OSCE, and the President of the ICRC to visit Chechnya. The Council expects these visits to help create a permanent coordinated international presence in the Northern Caucasus and a productive dialogue on all open questions.

The Council restated its readiness to contribute to building a stable long-term partnership with Russia on the basis of common values and shared objectives. In this context it noted the usefulness of the in-depth and frank discussions during the Troika meeting with Russia and the informal trilateral EU/USA/Russia Ministerial meeting in Lisbon.

The Council expressed its hope that the forthcoming Presidential elections would further contribute to stabilising and developing democratic and economic reforms in all regions of the Russian Federation. It welcomed Russia's invitation to ODIHR to monitor the elections and expects that these would be free and fair, according to international standards.

 

 

 

STATUTE FOR MEMBERS OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

The Council was informed by the Presidency on the state of progress of its contacts with the European Parliament, notably in the light of the meeting with the EP contact group of 14 March, aiming at relaunching the negotiations on the statute for members of the European Parliament. During this meeting the representatives of the EP confirmed that the basis of their position was still the "Rothley" report of 3 December 1998 but that the EP was open to negotiations.

On its side, the Presidency proposed to the EP a three tier method for approaching the problems raised by the statute of MEPs of which the first two - concerning drafting quality and legal aspects - shall be dealt with by the competent interinstitutional working group. A report by this group is expected in time for the next meeting of the Presidency with the EP contact group scheduled during the April session in Strasbourg.

As far as the questions of a political nature are concerned, the Presidency intends to work at narrowing the differences between the institutions based on the lists identifying the main preoccupations of the two sides which it has elaborated following intensive contacts within the EP and the Council.

In conclusion, the Council gave its support to the Presidency approach and agreed to come back to this matter at a forthcoming session in the light of developments in the negotiations.

 

 

REDUCTION OF NUMBER OF COUNCIL FORMATIONS

The Presidency, noting that the quorum required to proceed to a vote on this matter no longer existed, indicated that the point would feature on the agenda of a forthcoming session of the Council.

 

 

FREE-LANCE INTERPRETERS

The Council adopted, by qualified majority, an amendment to Regulation N° 259/68 (EEC, Euratom, ECSC) laying down the Staff Regulations of Officials of the European Communities and the Conditions of Employment of Other servants of the Communities - in the specific case concerning free-lance interpreters.

As amended, article 78 of the conditions of employment of other servants of the European Communities offers free-lance interpreters recruited by the Commission on behalf of other Institutions and Community bodies the same recruitment conditions as those applying to conference interpreters recruited by the European Parliament.

 

 

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

(Decisions for which statements for the Council minutes have been made available to the public are indicated by asterisks; the statements in question may be obtained from the Press Office.)

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

 

Second EC-Mexico Joint Council

The Council adopted the Position to be taken by the Community at the Second EC-Mexico Joint Council, to be held in Lisbon on 23 March 2000.

The meeting, which will take place in the margins of the Lisbon special European Council, will deal with the implementation of the pertinent articles of the interim agreement, with respect to the results of EU-Mexico negotiations on liberalisation in the areas of trade in goods, public procurement and competition as well as the establishment of a consultation mechanism for problems of intellectual property.

 

Arms embargo on Ethiopia and Eritrea

The Council adopted an extension of its Common Position imposing an arms embargo on Ethiopia and Eritrea.

This new Common Position extends until 30 September 2000 the arms embargo on Ethiopia and Eritrea first adopted by the Council on 15 March 1999 for six months, following the UN Security Council Resolution 1227 of 10 February 1999, and subsequently extended untill 31 March, which urged all States to end immediately all sales of arms and ammunition to the above mentioned countries.

 

European Union assistance for mine clearance in Croatia

The Council adopted a Decision supplementing a previous Decision of 1998 concerning a specific action of the Union in Croatia in the field of assistance for mine clearance.

The allocation of an additional amount of EURO 308.133 to cover operational expenditure for the year 2000 will allow the continuation of the Demining Assistance Mission in Croatia implemented on behalf of the EU by the Western European Union.

 

Resignation of Mr. Roumeliotis, EU Special Representative for the Royaumont Process

The Council agreed on the Presidency’s reply to the resignation submitted by Mr. Roumeliotis on 3 February 2000. The resignation should have taken effect on 1 March 2000 but following contacts between the Presidency and Mr. Roumeliotis, the latter agreed to complete his mandate until 31 May 2000, in order to assure the follow-up of ongoing Royaumont business. Through the Presidency, the Council expressed its appreciation for the valuable contribution Mr. Roumeliotis has made to the cause of stability and good neighbourliness in South-East Europe.

 

 

Indonesia - Council conclusions

"(1) The Council welcomed the Communication from the Commission to the Council and to the European Parliament on developing closer relations between Indonesia and the European Union. It also welcomed the contributions made by the Secretary-General/High Representative through the Secretariat Policy Unit.

(2) The Council, in recognition of the historic changes which had taken place in Indonesia, and in particular the democratic elections to the Indonesian Parliament and of the President and Vice-President, believed that it was time for the European Union to forge a new and closer relationship with the new Indonesian Government so as to support its efforts to strengthen the country's democracy, ensure respect for human rights, reform its military and judicial systems, enhance the rule of law and good governance, restore the vitality of its economy and solve its internal conflicts through dialogue rather than the use of force.

(3) The Council also recognised the importance of the role that Indonesia can play in the region. It sought an enhanced co-operation with Indonesia in the promotion of regional security. It acknowledged that a closer relationship with Indonesia could enhance the EU-ASEAN dialogue and ASEM process to which the Council remained firmly attached. It encouraged the development of a close and good neighbourly relationship between Indonesia and East Timor as the territory entered in a transition period towards independence. In this context, the Council also noted the commitment of the Indonesian Government to continue to address the question of East Timorese refugees and illegal militia activities in West Timor, as well as to ensure the bringing to justice of those suspected of having committed human rights violations in East Timor.

(4) The Council, while noting the severe impact of the Asian economic and financial crisis on Indonesia, expressed confidence that democratic and political stability would provide the basis for an accelerated process of economic recovery. It encouraged the Government of Indonesia to address macro-economic challenges swiftly and rigorously. In this context, the Council considered reform and re-capitalisation of the financial system, containment of external debt, and tackling the problems of cronyism and corruption as areas of particular importance.

(5) The Council emphasised that support for economic recovery would be a priority in the EU’s short-term strategy towards Indonesia. At the same time, it acknowledged Indonesia’s substantial development assistance needs as outlined in the Communication. The Council recognised that further prioritisation of the development needs should be the subject of discussion between the EU and the Indonesian authorities.

(6) The Council stressed the importance of strengthening the EU’s co-ordination with the International Financial Institutions, particularly the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as the European Investment Bank. It recognised the important role these institutions can play in the channelling of development funds. It called for the establishment of a regular co-ordination mechanism in Jakarta. The Council recognised the valuable role played by the ASEM Trust Fund in Indonesia.

 

(7) The Council underlined the EU’s interest in developing a more intensive co-operation with Indonesia to facilitate the launch of the new WTO round.

For these reasons, the Council :

(a) Invited Indonesia to engage in a regular political dialogue with the Union, inter alia at ministerial level, through which the EU may support the development of a strong, democratic, united and prosperous Indonesia. This dialogue should include the respect for human rights, the promotion of the rule of law and good governance, as well as co-operation with Indonesia to promote regional stability. The Council will regularly review the results of that dialogue and the ways in which it may be enhanced.

(b) Invited the Commission to develop assistance programmes that would help to anchor Indonesian democracy, as well as enhance the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights, as outlined in the Communication.

(c) Encouraged the progressive development of contacts between Member States' and Indonesian civilian and defence officials in support of reforms by the new Indonesian Government that seek to turn the armed forces and the police into modern, professional defence and security institutions, firmly founded on respect of human rights and of the political authority of the democratically-elected Government.

(d) Expressed its readiness to support efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation so as to reduce cultural and religious tensions in Indonesia, promote the country's stability and preserve its territorial integrity.

(e) Urged the Commission to address the issue of poverty relief in Indonesia, with emphasis on both the dimensions of poverty and the composition of the poor, as well as the particular needs resulting from ethnic conflict and refugee movements in the Moluccas and West Timor.

(f) Identified the need for appropriate and well-targeted programmes in the social sector, including areas such as health, education and family planning, in particular in co-operation with the relevant Indonesian institutions.

(g) Welcomed the Commission’s intention to develop an EC-Indonesia economic dialogue through regular Senior Officials meetings with the Indonesian administration and to broaden and strengthen its co-operation programmes with Indonesia.

(h) Noted the Commission's readiness to provide, in close co-operation with the relevant Indonesian institutions, technical assistance to support regulatory reform and the promotion of rule of law and good governance in Indonesia.

(i) Recalled the trade pledge made in London at ASEM II and underlined the need to start discussions on market access issues between both partners to stimulate two-way trade.

(j) Invited the Commission to study, on the basis of the relevant data, the application of the GSP graduation mechanism.

 

(k) Urged the Government of Indonesia to encourage good business practices and to offer more openness to foreign direct investment in order to stimulate new investments.

(l) Invited the Commission to make full use of existing EC economic co-operation programmes to promote increased activity and investment by European SMEs in Indonesia.

(m) Called on the Government of Indonesia to take urgent action on the problem of illegal logging and on the development of a National Forest Programe for sustainable management.

(n) Invited the Commission and the Member States to follow-up on forestry management and to strengthen co-operation with Indonesia on sustainable natural resource management, in particular forestry.

(o) Also invited the Commission and Member States to strengthen coordination with the aim of maximising the impact of EU assistance to Indonesia."

 

United Nations finances - Council conclusions

"The Council reaffirmed its commitment to securing the comprehensive reform of both the UN Regular and Peacekeeping scales, in order to put UN finances on a sound, sustainable and equitable basis.

The Council reaffirmed that the principle determining UN member states’ contributions should remain the principle of capacity to pay. In this context it reiterated the principles of the 1996 EU position.

The Council emphasised that it could only consider a reordering of UN contributions on the basis of an open negotiation aiming at a fairer distribution of the financial burden and at protecting EU member states’ financial interests."

 

Exceptional financial assistance to Tajikistan *

The Council adopted a modification to the Decision 97/787/EC providing exceptional financial assistance for Armenia and Georgia in order to extend it to Tajikistan

Council Decision 97/787/EC provides for financial assistance from the Community in the form of a mix of long term loan and straight grants. When adopting that decision the Council agreed to consider a similar operation for Tajikistan once circumstances allowed. In adopting the present decision the Council has noted that Tajikistan is undertaking fundamental political and economic reforms. In implementing this decision, the Commission will take due account of progress made in the inter-Tajik peace process and, in particular, in the holding of elections under acceptable conditions.

 

 

Exception for the EFTA States in the field of audiovisual services

The Council approved on behalf of the EU a draft Decision of the EEA Joint Committee amending the Annex on Audiovisual Services to the EEA Agreement.

Annex X of the EEA Agreement contains an adaptation to Council Directive 89/552/EEC of 3 October 1989. However, the existing adaptation does not create an enforceable obligation to abandon the right to have advertisements relating to alcoholic beverages obscured. In order to attain as high a degree of homogeneity as possible without jeopardising the alcohol policy in the EEA/EFTA States, it was agreed that the scope of the exception should be curbed so as to cover only broadcasts where main audience is in those States. The EEA Joint Committee should therefore adopt the above draft Decision to amend Annex X of the EEA Agreement.

 

 

Enlargement - accession partnership with Cyprus and Malta

The Council adopted two Decisions on the principles, priorities, intermediate objectives and conditions contained in the accession partnerships with Cyprus and Malta (as they are submitted to each applicant country).

The Decisions recall in particular that Community assistance is conditional on the fulfilment of essential elements, and in particular on progress towards fulfilment of the Copenhagen criteria. Where an essential element is lacking, the Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, may take appropriate steps with regard to any pre-accession assistance.

The Decisions also state that in order to prepare for membership, Cyprus and Malta should prepare national programmes for the adoption of the "acquis" taking into account the objective analysis on both countries preparations for membership and the priority areas clarified for further work in the 1999 Commission Regular report.

 

Association Council EU-Romania

The Council established the position on the European Union to be taken at the sixth Association Council meeting with Romania on 21 March 2000 (see Press Release, doc. UE-RO 1805/00, Presse 84).

 

 

TRADE QUESTIONS

Control of exports of dual-use goods

The Council adopted a Decision amending a joint action concerning the control of exports of dual-use goods.

The Decision modifies the Annexes I and IV to the Decision 94/942/CFSP - Annex I, that contains the list of dual-use goods the export of which is subject to authorisation and Annex IV that contains the list of dual-use goods subject to authorisation in the case of intra-Community trade. These modifications are necessary in order to take into account a series of commitments undertaken by Member States in the framework of international fora (Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group and the Nuclear Supplier's Group).

 

Imports of agricultural products following the accident at the Chernobyl *

The Council adopted a Regulation amending Regulation (EEC) N° 737/90 on the conditions governing imports of agricultural products originating in third countries following the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station.

The aim of the Regulation is to extend for ten years the system for checking compliance with the maximum permitted levels of radio activity on agricultural products laid down by Regulation (EEC) N°737/90, which took account of the continuing situation from the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station and was latter extended by Regulation (EC) N° 686/95 until 31 March 2000.

 

TAXATION

Sixth VAT Directive - derogation for Netherlands

The Council adopted a Decision authorising the Kingdom of the Netherlands to apply a measure derogating from Article 11 of the Sixth Directive (77/388/EEC) on the harmonisation of the laws of Member States relating to turnover taxes.

This derogation authorises the Netherlands, until 31 December 2004, to include in the taxable amount in respect of the supply of goods or services involving the working of non-taxed investment gold value of the gold contained in the finished product, based on the current market value of the investment gold, in order to prevent certain types of tax evasion or avoidance.

 

 

 

 

PROGRESS ACHIEVED BY THE EUROPEAN UNION IN 1999

The Council agreed on a draft report to the European Parliament on the progress achieved by the European Union in 1999 to be adopted by the European Council in Lisbon.

The report highlights the main features of the EU activity during the last year such as the adoption of the Agenda 2000 package, the agreement on the remit and timing of the IGC on institutional reform, advances towards enhancing CFSP, in particular as regards Common Security and Defence and in the field of Justice and Home Affairs towards creating an "area of freedom, security and justice", continued attention on employment and growth and the historic decisions concerning enlargement.

 

 

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Footnotes:

( 1) The Regulation constitutes the implementation of the political agreement reached by the Council on 14 February 2000 providing for a suspension of the flight ban for six months in the framework of the overall policy of applying maximum pressure on the Milosevic regime through the strengthening of sanctions targeted at the regime, without penalising the Serbian people. This agreement also included a political decision to extend the scope of the visa restrictions by enlarging the visa ban list, and it invited the Commission to present detailed proposals on enhancing the effectiveness of existing financial sanctions. The Regulation adopted by the Council also provides for amendment - to the extent necessary to allow the flight ban suspension to operate - of the relevant Regulations relating to the freeze of funds and ban on investment in relation to the FRY, and to the prohibition on the sale and supply of petrol and petroleum products to certain parts of the FRY.