Council of Foreign Ministers

Oral Answers to Questions — European Community – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th July 1978.

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Photo of Mr John Evans Mr John Evans , Newton 12:00 am, 26th July 1978

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what items he intends to place on the agenda for the next meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers.

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth North

It is too early to say what items will be discussed at our next meeting in September.

However, at yesterday's meeting, the Presidency reported on the formal opening of the renegotiation of the Lomé Convention on 24th July, and the Council discussed aid to non-associate developing countries. The Council agreed on controls on textile imports from a number of Mediterranean countries and heard reports on the follow-up to the Bremen and Bonn summits. The Council also discussed the Community steel and shipbuilding industries, GATT multilateral trade negotiations, relations between the EEC and Yugoslavia, and beef imports from Botswana, and formally decided on the date for the first direct elections to the European Assembly. Foreign Ministers also adopted a statement on Namibia.

I am circulating a fuller account in the Official Report.

Photo of Mr John Evans Mr John Evans , Newton

I thank the Minister for that very helpful and full reply. Will he ask the Foreign Secretary to place on the agenda for the next meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers the question of the operation of the veto by member States, and make it absolutely clear to his European colleagues that Her Majesty's Government are determined to maintain the right to veto any proposals, on fisheries or anything else, that we feel are not in our national interests?

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth North

My hon. Friend has no doubt noticed that in the context of discussions about enlargement there have been some suggestions that voting procedures in the Council of Ministers might be changed. We have made it very clear that we are not in favour of any changes of that sort, precisely for the kind of reason that my hon. Friend emphasised effectively in his question.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

In view of the welcome decision of the United States Senate to end the embargo on the sale of arms to Turkey, will the Minister recommend three steps to his EEC colleagues—first, an international rescue operation for the Turkish economy, secondly, some streamlining of the very large Turkish forces, and, thirdly, concessions on Turkey's part with a view to reaching a settlement in Cyprus?

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth North

With the greatest respect, I think that the hon. Gentleman is slightly confused, because some members of the EEC are not members of the NATO Alliance; therefore it would not be appropriate to discuss with them the kinds of military considerations that he mentioned in his question.

We realise that as enlargement takes place and Greece comes into the Community, there will be a very real issue concerning our relations, as a Community, with Turkey. We are determined to give priority to these in the economic sphere and, very importantly, in the political sphere.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

Is my hon. Friend aware that not everybody will agree with the tone of the supplementary question asked by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths)? Is he further aware that many people feel that a European country which uses NATO arms for invading an independent Commonwealth country near to it should be the subject of some form of sanctions? We all want the economy of Turkey to be strong, but is my hon. Friend aware that no one on the Labour Benches would condone the sort of lifting of sanctions that is taking place in the United States?

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth North

Whatever may or may not have happened in the past, I am sure that my hon. Friend, with his very special knowledge of Cyprus, would agree that that island has had a tortuous history. Whatever may or may not have happened in the past, the southern flank of NATO is vital to the integrity of the Alliance as a whole. I believe that it is in that context that we have to look at what was decided yesterday in the United States Senate.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton

Turning to another serious subject, will the Minister ensure, either at the next meeting or arising from his last meeting, that the Lomé Convention is considered further in relation to the major concern of ex-British colonial countries that the amount of aid that is going to ex-French colonial countries is proportionately very much greater, under the convention, than that which is going to ex-British colonial countries? Does he agree that that ought to be looked at most seriously?

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth North

That very point arose at the discussions this week. We are glad that the renegotiation of the Lomé Convention got off to a good start, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it very plain yesterday that we believe, in the spirit of the Bonn summit—where specific undertakings about responsibilities to the third world were given—that it is very important to recognise that the poorest countries in the world include many which are non-associate States and have the biggest populations. The population of India is very much bigger than that of all the associate States put together. From this standpoint we favour a greater contribution by the Community to the non-associate States, rather than simply concentrating on the associate States.

Following is the information:The Council took the formal decision fixing the 7th to 10th June 1979 as the date for the first direct elections to the European Assembly.The Presidency reported to the Council on the way follow-up work to the conclusions reached at the European Council in Bremen had been allocated among the responsible Community organs.The Presidency and the Commission reported on the outcome of the Bonn Summit; and satisfaction was expressed with the results.The Council agreed procedural arrangements for further discussion of problems affecting the Community steel industry. Progress will be reviewed in October. There will be urgent bilateral discussions between the Commission and member States on difficulties which have arisen in present arrangements for the control of steel imports.The Council reached provisional agreement, subject to a United Kingdom reserve, on the text of a resolution on the shipbuilding industry.The Council took note of a progress report from the Commission on the GATT multilateral trade negotiations, and discussed points to be borne in mind in the next stages of the negotiations.The Presidency reported briefly on the outcome of the formal opening of the renegotiation of the Lomé Convention, which took place in Brussels on 24th July.The Council emphasised the importance which it attaches to reaching a new agreement with Yugoslavia. It was agreed that further proposals from the Commission would be considered after the summer break.Having received satisfactory assurances from the Commission that it would take action to ensure that the agreed ceilings on low cost textile imports would be strictly enforced and that new restraints will be imposed promptly when the need arises, the Secretary of State for Trade accepted the arrangements negotiated with Portugal, Greece and Spain.Under other business, the United Kingdom welcomed the agreement reached in the Agriculture Council, which will allow us to resume importing beef from the southern area of Botswana, and urged that imports should be permitted soon from other areas which are free of foot and mouth disease.In the margin of the meeting there was a discussion of a number of matters arising in political co-operation.The nine Foreign Ministers issued a declaration on Namibia noting that the way is now open to an early internationally acceptable solution and declaring their readiness to respond to a request to help support the economic wellbeing of an independent Namibia.My right hon. Friend raised the question of the code of conduct for companies with interests in South Africa. He emphasised the importance of instituting as soon as possible national arrangements to ensure compliance with the code and full reporting by companies comparable to those set out in the White Paper, Cmnd. 7233, and its annexes.