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Mr David Lidington - Foreign and Commonwealth Office

My Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council on 12 October. The Foreign Affairs Council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. The General Affairs Council was chaired by the Luxembourg Presidency. The meetings were held in Luxembourg.

Foreign Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and Conclusions adopted can be found at:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/fac/2015/10/12/

The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) met to discuss Libya, Syria, Migration and EU/Africa, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Post-Cotonou. Ms Mogherini also updated on violence in the Middle East and condemned the Ankara terrorist attacks in her opening remarks. Ms Mogherini noted the upcoming ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) conference in November and said that the Foreign Affairs Council would discuss Belarus at the November Council.

Libya

Ms Mogherini welcomed the agreement to establish a Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya, and made clear that the EU should encourage all parties to sign up to the agreement and be ready to support it. The FAC subsequently agreed supportive and positive Council Conclusions. Details of the support package, which would focus on capacity and institution building as well as the restoration of basic services, particularly health, would be finalised in partnership with the GNA to ensure their buy in and ownership. The Foreign Secretary made clear that the important but fragile agreement needed the EUs full support. The Foreign Secretary also highlighted that the UK and UN would be co-hosting in London a planning meeting on international support to a GNA.

Syria

Ministers discussed many aspects of the situation in Syria, including the political process, the recent Russian intervention and the migration crisis. Ms Mogherini said in her opening remarks that the EU had a role to play in support of the UN political process, and later noted that EU Member States needed to ensure unity by continuing to coordinate closely. The Foreign Secretary argued that the attacks by Russia on the Syrian opposition and civilians was unacceptable and would set back the prospect of a political solution. All Member States agreed that support for the UN-led political process must continue, with the Foreign Secretary making clear that any process must involve a transition away from Assad, who could not be part of Syrias future.

Migration

Over lunch the Council discussed the external aspects of migration, covering the Eastern Mediterranean, Western Balkans and the Central Mediterranean routes. There was broad support for increasing work on the upstream aspects of migration and for Turkey as a strategic partner.

EU / ACP relations Post-Cotonou

Ms Mogherini and Johannes Hahn (Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations) presented the Joint Consultation Paper on EU/ACP relations post-Cotonou. Detailed discussion would formally begin at the Foreign Affairs Council (Development) on Monday 26 October. Ms Mogherini underlined that the post-Cotonou agenda also covered a range of non-development issues: Foreign Ministers would therefore return to the subject next year.

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of measures:

  • The Council approved the High Representatives report on the twenty-first and twenty-second Operation ALTHEA six-monthly review.
  • The Council adopted conclusions on Libya.
  • The Council adopted conclusions on Syria.
  • The Council adopted conclusions on migration.
  • The Council adopted conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • The Council adopted conclusions on South Sudan.
  • The Council authorised the European Commission and the High Representative to open negotiations on a new, legally binding and overarching agreement with Armenia and adopted a corresponding negotiating mandate.
  • The Council amended the agreement establishing the association between the EU and Chile.
  • The Council decided to extend until the end of April 2016 the validity of an existing Council decision in support of the practical implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
  • The Council decided to continue the EUs support for the activities of the preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO).
  • The Council amended the restrictive measures in view of the situation in Syria.
  • The Council amended the statements of reasons for persons and groups subject to restrictive measures with a view to combating terrorism.
  • The Council approved a recast version of decision 2011/411/CFSP, which established the European Defence Agency, to improve the clarity of the legal text.

General Affairs Council

A provisional report of the meeting and Conclusions adopted can be found at:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2015/10/13/

The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 13 October focussed on preparation of the European Council on 15 October 2015, and the 2016 Commission Work Programme. Under Any Other Business, the GAC considered the Inter-institutional Agreement on Better Regulation and meeting in the margins of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council.

Preparation of the October European Council

The GAC prepared the agenda for the 15 October European Council, which the Prime Minister attended. The October European Council discussed migration, reviewed progress on Economic and Monetary Union, and received an update on the UKs renegotiation, including the state of play of technical talks and intentions for the process ahead. The European Council also considered external relations issues, including Libya, Syria, and Turkey.

On migration, I strongly supported the emphasis in the draft Council Conclusions on a comprehensive approach to the issue. I also suggested we step up our engagement with Turkey.

2016 Commission Work Programme

The GAC took note of the Commissions letter of intent for their 2016 Work Programme and the Presidencys draft response on behalf of Member States. I welcomed the overall content of the letter of intent, and emphasised the need for continued ambition on completing the single market.

Inter-institutional Agreement on Better Regulation (IIA)

The Luxembourg Presidency updated the GAC on the IIA negotiations. Tripartite political talks between the Presidency (representing the Council), the European Parliament and the Commission will continue in the coming months. I emphasised the important role of national parliaments in EU decision-making.

Meeting in the margins of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Denmark expressed concern about a recent meeting of ministers from eurozone countries held in the margins of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) on 5 October. I had signed a joint letter from non-eurozone Member States to the President of the General Affairs Council expressing concern at the planned meeting. During the GAC, I repeated our concern that the meeting had gone ahead and emphasised the need for any further such discussion to include all Member States. This position was supported by all non-eurozone members and some eurozone members.

 


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