General Affairs and External Relations Council Luxembourg, 26-27 April, 2004 - Statement by Minister of State Tom Kitt - Part II
Firstly, the Barcelona European Council in March 2002 agreed on a series of eight EU commitments with a view to ensuring a successful outcome of the Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development. The commitments cover a broad range of issues such as ODA levels, coordination and harmonisation of aid, debt relief and untying of aid. At next week’s Council, Ministers will consider the Commission’s second annual report on the implementation of these commitments. The report concentrates in particular on the first two of the eight commitments: ODA volumes, and aid harmonisation.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were agreed at the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, set a series of targets for reducing global poverty, most of which are to be achieved by 2015. The over-arching target is to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty, i.e. on less than $1 per day, by half by 2015. In January, on the initiative of the Irish Presidency, the Council invited the Commission to prepare for a high-level UN stocktaking of the MDGs in September 2005. At the Council, I will ask the Council to mandate the Commission to begin a stocktaking exercise on the basis of the proposals it has now presented, with a view to the production of a joint EU report for the UN meeting in September 2005.
The EU is aware of the importance of cotton and commodities for a number of countries, particularly those in Africa, who rely heavily on them. Cotton prices, as those for most agricultural commodities, show a long-term decreasing price trend and strong short-term fluctuations. In October, the EU Council recognised that this is a vital issue for those countries and invited the Commission to examine the situation in depth and to inform it accordingly – now the Council will decide on further actions.
EU Ministers continue to have a high level of interest in further reform of Commission’s external assistance programmes. The Commission’s reform programme has been successfully implemented and the benefits of higher efficiency and effectiveness are being seen now, but we should build on the reform to make the EC an even more effective donor. The Presidency will chair a discussion of what further reform might entail.
Preparation of International Conferences: work has been ongoing during Ireland’s EU Presidency on preparation of EU positions for UNCTAD XI in June 2004, the Small Island Developing States in August 2004 and Phase II of the World Summit on the Information Society in November 2005. The Presidency will chair a short Ministerial discussion at the Council which will provide a political overview of the work in hand.
Having regard to the Amendments to the Cotonou Agreement, the EU notified the ACP States in February 2004 of the Union’s intention to review the Cotonou Agreement. The Council has to agree a negotiating mandate for the Commission by the end of the current month, in time for the official opening of negotiations due to take place on 6-7 May 2004 at the ACP-EU Joint Ministerial Council in Botswana. The negotiations are expected to last until the end of February 2005.