Foreign Affairs Council
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
David Lidington (Minister of State (Europe and NATO), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Aylesbury, Conservative)
Foreign Affairs Council (FAC)
The FAC was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland. A provisional report of the meeting and all conclusions adopted can be found at:
The agenda items covered were as follows:
Ministers discussed the situation in the EU’s southern neighbourhood, focusing on Syria and Egypt. This Council marked the anniversary of the revision of the EU’s neighbourhood policy. The conclusions summarised the progress to date on the EU’s southern neighbourhood policy. Ministers agreed on the Council’s approach to EU funding in the neighbourhood from 2014, incorporating clear conditionality, with the capacity to reduce funding in the event of democratic regression.
The discussion centred on concerns about the deteriorating situation in Syria, and the significant consequences for the region. Ministers agreed conclusions (see link above) condemning the shooting down of the Turkish military plane on
The Council welcomed the peaceful conduct of elections in Egypt. The conclusions (see link above) congratulated Mohammed Mursi on his election as Egypt’s President; welcomed his commitment to inclusivity; reiterated the EU’s full support to Egypt’s democratic transition and renewed the offer of EU assistance. The conclusions reflected broad agreement on Egypt.
The Council confirmed its position on Iran oil sanctions, allowing the embargo to come into force on
EU Human Rights Strategy
Ministers adopted conclusions on a strategic framework on human rights and democracy with an action plan implementing it. The Government took the difficult decision to override the House’s scrutiny reserve resolution on the action plan. This decision was not taken lightly, as the Government consider that parliamentary scrutiny is as an essential ingredient to the democratic process and oversight of EU decision-making. The two texts are the culmination of a two-year review of the EU’s external human rights policy, and the EAS hopes also to agree a third element: an EU special representative for human rights. The Foreign Secretary set out our strong support for EU action on human rights globally, while stressing that the agreed elements do not affect in any way the balance of competences between the EU and member states. He added that Parliament would want to debate the issue before the UK could give approval to the mandate for the proposed EUSR on human rights. Ministers also stressed the importance of freedom of religion, and of women’s rights.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ministers agreed conclusions welcoming political progress since the start of 2012. They discussed further the steps which Bosnia and Herzegovina would need to take to make progress along its EU path. Ministers noted the European Commission’s high-level dialogue on accession on
High Representative Ashton briefed Ministers about her recent visit to Pakistan, during which the EU-Pakistan strategic dialogue had been launched. The Foreign Secretary argued that Pakistan should remain a strategic priority for the EU, and led calls for stronger engagement over the next five years, under the EU-Pakistan engagement
plan agreed earlier this year. Ministers agreed wide-ranging conclusions (see link above) offering EU support for Pakistan’s forthcoming elections, reaffirming commitment to trade concessions, and pointing to a third EU-Pakistan summit to deepen the relationship further.
Other B usiness
Ministers exchanged views on how visa policy could be used to encourage political change in Belarus. The situation in Mali was also discussed, and this item will be on the agenda of the FAC in July. Ministers also approved:
An EU position for the 14th meeting of the EU-Moldova Cooperation Council;
A Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations of a framework participation agreement in crisis management with the Republic of Moldova;
A partial general approach on the EU’s external financing instruments for the next multi-annual financial framework, as the basis for negotiations with the European Parliament;
Conclusions on central Asia, a progress report on the implementation of the EU strategy for the region, and the appointment of Patricia Flor as EU special representative for central Asia;
Conclusions on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I will continue to update Parliament on future Foreign Affairs Councils.