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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 16 November. My Right Honourable Friend, Minister of State and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Howe attended the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) on 17 November. I attended the General Affairs Council on 17 November and Rory ODonnell (Counsellor Regions, Agriculture and Fisheries) represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (Cohesion). The Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) 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 Brussels.

Foreign Affairs Council

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

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/fac/2015/11/16-17/

The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC)

The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) was overshadowed by the Paris attacks of 13 November. The meeting covered Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), Migration and Syria. There were also moments to reflect on the Paris attacks. The discussions on the Eastern Partnership and Libya were postponed to the December FAC.

MEPP

In the presence of EU Special Representative Fernando Gentilini, the Council discussed the situation in the Middle East in the light of the increased violence, particularly in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, focusing on the peace process. Member States agreed that the EU should explore what it could do on the ground to help preserve the two-state solution.

Migration

The Council discussed migration, following up on the high-level conference on the Western Balkans route held on 8 October and the Valletta Summit held on 11 and 12 November. Ministers discussed the follow-up to the decisions already taken on the central Mediterranean route and on the Western Balkans. The Foreign Secretary raised the importance of Turkey as a strategic partner with whom the EU should engage across a broad agenda including migration, foreign policy, security and counter-terrorism, and business.

Syria

Over lunch, Ministers discussed Syria with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. They discussed the latest developments, taking into account recent diplomatic efforts, including the discussions in Vienna on 23 October and 14 November.

Ministers agreed without discussion a number of measures:

  • The Council adopted conclusions on Burundi;
  • The Council adopted conclusions on Sri Lanka;
  • The Council adopted conclusions on the EUs support to transitional justice;
  • The Council adopted conclusions on Yemen;
  • The Council adopted conclusions on the special report entitled: Report by the European Court of Auditors on the EU police mission in Afghanistan;
  • The Council extended the mandate of the European Union Special Representative (EUSR) in Kosovo until 28 February 2017.
  • The Council reviewed the restrictive measures in view of the situation in Tunisia in light of the information forwarded by the Tunisian authorities concerning the latest developments in the ongoing judicial proceedings in Tunisia against 48 persons listed in Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/157. The Council concluded that no changes needed to be made to these designations.
  • The Council amended the restrictive measures in view of the situation in Afghanistan to implement the decision of the UN Security Council Committee on sanctions against the Taliban, adding one person to the list of individuals, groups, undertakings and entities subject to restrictive measures.
  • The Council amended the restrictive measures in view of the situation in Somalia to reflect the de-listing by the UN of one deceased person.
  • The Council adopted the EUs position on the eighth review conference of the convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons and on their destruction (BTWC) taking place from November to December 2016.
  • The Council added Albania to the list of beneficiaries of funding activities to reduce the threat of the illicit spread and trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition in south-east Europe.
  • The Council adopted the EUs position for the second meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council.
  • The Council adopted the position of the EU on the draft declaration of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) ministerial conference on the blue economy.

Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) & European Defence Agency (EDA)

The Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) was dominated by discussions about the terrible attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015. At the meeting the French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, confirmed that France was calling for bilateral support from Member States under Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty the Mutual Assistance Clause. Minister of State and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Howe, confirmed the UKs continuing support to France, noting that bilateral contact between our two Governments was already underway. All of the other 27 EU Defence Ministers were unanimous in offering their political support and expressing their readiness to provide practical assistance. In his address to the FAC (D), NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, emphasised that NATO stood in solidarity with France, whilst underscoring the importance of greater EU-NATO cooperation.

Minister of State and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords welcomed the European Commissions Defence Action Plan that proposed to brigade existing Commission instruments together under a single plan, but expressed caution towards new initiatives, emphasising the need to implement those already agreed. In discussion, the UK also emphasised support for ongoing work on Capacity Building for Security and Development, given its potential to strengthen a genuinely comprehensive EU approach.

The EDA Steering Board discussion initially focused on the reform work EDA had undertaken to date, including the presentation of its three-year planning framework. The High Representative and Vice President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini, then sought Defence Ministers agreement on the EDAs future programme of work and the 2016 EDA annual budget. The UK noted that it could not agree to any increase in the EDAs budget for next year, but encouraged the EDA to continue with important reforms with a view to reviewing the 2017 budget.

General Affairs Council

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

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2015/11/17/

The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 17 November discussed: preparation of the agenda for the European Council on 17 and 18 December 2015; the Rule of Law; the Inter-Institutional Agreement on Better Regulation; the 2016 Commission Work Programme; and the European Semester.

Preparation of the December European Council

The GAC prepared the agenda for the 17 and 18 December European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The December European Council is expected to focus on: Migration; Economic and Monetary Union; the Single Market; the UKs renegotiation; and external relations issues, likely to include Russia and Ukraine.

In light of the attacks in Paris, I highlighted the importance of further discussion of counter terrorism issues following the extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council on 20 November.

On migration, I stressed the urgent need to make progress on implementing the Action Plan agreed at the Valletta Summit on 11 and 12 November.

On the UKs renegotiation, I underlined the areas where the UK wanted to see reform as set out in the Prime Ministers letter to the President of the European Council on 10 November.

Rule of Law

The Council held the first annual dialogue on promoting the rule of law in the European Union. The theme of this years dialogue was rule of law in the age of digitalisation and Member States were invited to present examples of good practice and challenges at national level.

I highlighted the need to tackle online extremism and set out the successes achieved in the UK through the work of the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral unit and the voluntary participation of online service providers. This has enabled the UK to ensure regular and swift removal of extremist material without the delays and concerns over extraterritoriality that would hamper attempts to achieve the same results through enforcement of legislation.

First Vice-President Timmermans also updated the GAC on Octobers human rights colloquium, hosted by the European Commission, on combating anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred.

Inter-Institutional Agreement on Better Regulation (IIA)

The GAC received a presentation from the Luxembourg Presidency updating Ministers on the progress of the IIA negotiations, including the recent political talks between the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council.

2016 Commission Work Programme

The GAC discussed the 2016 Commission Work Programme (CWP): No Time for Business as Usual published on 27 October. The UK welcomes and looks forward to working on the Commission Work Programme a step towards a more effective EU.

Annual Growth Survey and Roadmap for the European Semester 2016

The Commission outlined that the publication of the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) had been delayed until 25 November. The AGS will mark the beginning of the European Semester process and is due to be published alongside the Alert Mechanism Report, the Joint Employment Report and the Commission draft budgetary opinions on Eurozone Member States. The AGS sets out broad EU level economic and social objectives for the year ahead and is expected to contain a focus on euro area level priorities, as set out in the European Commissions 21 October Communication on steps towards Completing Economic and Monetary Union.

The GAC received a presentation from the Luxembourg Presidency and incoming Dutch Presidency on the newly revised European Semester Roadmap focussing on the implementation of country specific recommendations (CSRs) and sharing of best practicebetween Member States.

General Affairs Council (Cohesion)

The session of the GAC on 18 November was dedicated to cohesion policy. Ministers agreed Council Conclusions on: the contribution of the European Structural and Investment Funds to support the transition to a low carbon economy; European Territorial Cooperation (or Interreg) programmes; and steps that might be taken to simply the implementation and administration of European Structural and Investment Funds.


Jeremy Wright - Attorney General

Yesterday the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with Standard Bank Plc (now known as ICBC Standard Bank Plc) in accordance with Section 45 and Schedule 17 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. This was the first time that this new power has been used by a prosecuting authority since the provision came into force on 24 February 2014. The indictment deferred by this agreement comprises a charge under section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 corporate failure to prevent bribery the first time this section of that legislation has been charged.

Corporate economic crime damages the British economy in monetary and reputational terms. Since May 2010, we have made structural changes to improve our strategic capability, including introducing deferred prosecution agreements in February 2014. The Government recognised the need for this additional and much-needed weapon in the prosecutions armoury to provide the flexibility to secure appropriate penalties and better outcomes for victims. Yesterdays agreement has resulted in the imposition of a multi-million pound penalty, payable to the Treasury. The DPA goes much further than just addressing the financial impact of the offending. It also regulates the future behaviour of the company, compelling Standard Bank to pay for and submit to an independent review of safeguards put in place to prevent future offending.

A DPA is where an agreement is reached between a designated prosecutor, in this case the SFO, and an organisation facing prosecution for certain economic or financial offences. The effect of such an agreement is that proceedings are instituted by a bill of indictment but then deferred on specific terms such as the payment of a financial penalty, compensation, disgorgement of profit along with implementation of a compliance programme, co-operation with the investigation and payment of costs. There are several stages to the process which include both a private and public hearing before a member of the senior judiciary. If the terms of a DPA and statement of facts is agreed between the parties, and approved by the judge, a declaration that a DPA is in the interests of justice and that its terms are fair, reasonable and proportionate must be given in public. Lord Justice Leveson delivered such a declaration in his judgment of 30 November 2015. Details of this particular DPA and the judgment have been published on the website of the SFO. Should the Company not adhere to the terms of the agreement the SFO has the ability to prosecute the company.

 


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