Joint Committee on European Affairs, 18 November 2004, General Affairs and External Relations CouncilStatement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dermot Ahern, TD - Part I
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Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee
I am very pleased to again have this opportunity to meet with you again to discuss the agenda for next week’s meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. The Council’s agenda is a very heavy one. As members of the Committee will be aware, the November Council traditionally deals with European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) issues and is consequently attended by both Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers. My colleague Willie O’Dea, Minister for Defence, will join me in Brussels next Monday for these discussions.
It is also the practice for Development Cooperation Ministers to attend one meeting of the Council per Presidency. This month the Council will consider a range of issues relating to the Union’s development cooperation policy and my colleague, Conor Lenihan, Minister of State with responsibility for Human Rights and Development Cooperation, will represent Ireland during these discussions. With your permission, I propose to address first the items on the General Affairs side and then those relating to External Relations. Minister Lenihan will then address the development issues.
Preparation for the European Council (16-17 December)
The General Affairs and External Relations Council will consider briefly the draft annotated agenda for the European Council on 16 and 17 December which has been circulated by the Presidency. The key issues included on the draft agenda are enlargement, the fight against Terrorism, the Financial Framework 2007-2013, the adoption of the EU Drugs Strategy 2005-2012 and a range of important External Relations issues, including the Middle East Peace Process, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan.
Work will continue on the draft annotated agenda over the coming weeks and we expect to have a more detailed discussion on it at our meeting in December. Financial Framework for 2007-2013
Ministers will discuss the financial framework for 2007 to 2013. The Netherlands Presidency has undertaken an intensive work programme on this issue at official level, reflecting its aim of achieving agreement on principles and guidelines at the December European Council. Ministers will discuss a progress report outlining the current state of play on each of the five proposed budgetary headings. They will also look at differing expenditure options for each heading devised by the Presidency to reflect Member States’ positions. Clear progress has also been made on identifying generally agreed principles for each area. Discussions at the Council will inform the Presidency’s work in drafting a report for the December Council on progress thus far.
Ministers will also discuss in particular the Commission’s proposals on external relations. We recognise the need for the Union to be adequately resourced to meet its external challenges. We wish to ensure that the commitment to development objectives remains undiluted.
The Council may discuss the issue of the draft regulations proposed by the Commission in July on assistance to the Turkish Cypriot community. The nature of the discussion, however, will depend very much on the outcome of today’s meeting of Ambassadors in Brussels.
I will now address the External Relations agenda.