The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 29 April in Luxembourg. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will represent the UK.
The agenda items are as follows:
Ministers will discuss developments in the western Balkans over lunch. Discussion is likely to focus on Serbia ahead of the 11 May elections and on the situation in Kosovo. The Council is expected to agree conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the Commission's 5 March communication on the region, 'Western Balkans - Enhancing the European Perspective'.
The Government support the communication's overall message reaffirming a European perspective for the western Balkans. The Government also support the individual initiatives set out by the Commission to make that perspective more tangible for the people of the region. On Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Government welcome recent reform progress, including adoption of important police reform legislation, which has brought Bosnia and Herzegovina much closer to the signature of its stabilisation and association agreement.
The Council is expected to renew the EU's strengthened common position imposing restrictive measures against Burma. The Government strongly support the common position and will want conclusions on Burma to highlight deep flaws in the regime's plans for a referendum and new constitution entrenching military rule. The Government believe the Council should also take this opportunity to confirm that work is under way on possible reinforcement of the EU's restrictive measures, so that the Council can respond quickly to developments.
Iraq is on the agenda at my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's request. There will not be conclusions, but the Government intend to use the April discussion to prepare for agreement at the May GAERC on a strengthened EU package of engagement, including greater Community activity before the Iraq compact meeting in Stockholm on 29 May.
The Government are pushing for robust conclusions, underlining the EU's deep concern at the delay in announcing the results of the presidential election and the escalation in state-sponsored violence and intimidation against opposition members and ordinary Zimbabweans.
The Council is expected to discuss priorities for increased EU engagement with Pakistan in light of the competitive parliamentary elections and establishment of a new democratic civilian Government. The Government believe it is important for the EU to engage with Pakistan in further work on democratisation, economic development, trade, human rights, regional co-operation and education.
Council discussion is expected to focus on the political process, the latest developments in Gaza and southern Israel, the EU's practical and political support for the peace process and upcoming international events in support of the peace process. These include the ad hoc Liaison Committee meeting in London on 2 May, which will look at ways in which the international community can strengthen the Palestinian economy, and the Berlin conference in support of Palestinian civil security and the rule of law on 24 June.
The Government fully support these international events and are committed to supporting the Annapolis process and the ongoing negotiations between the parties with a view to achieving a two-state solution.
European Neighbourhood Policy
The Commission is expected to present the annual ENP country progress reports. These accompanied the Commission's communication of 3 April, 'Implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy'. The Commission's presentation may highlight the four ENP partners who have made most progress in implementing reform over 2007—Ukraine, Moldova, Morocco and Israel. The Government welcome the detailed round up of progress contained in the communication and its accompanying documents, and the contribution these have made to raising ENP's profile.
The Council is expected to consider whether there has been sufficient progress on human rights issues in Uzbekistan in the last six months to warrant continued suspension of the EU visa ban. The Government recognise the positive progress made by Uzbekistan in the last six months and welcome its commitment to hold a second round of the EU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue in May or June this year. In the light of this, and in order to encourage further positive progress from Uzbekistan, the Government are likely to join consensus in continuing the suspension.
The Council will discuss developments, including the Russian directive signed by President Putin on 16 April, on strengthening Russia's bilateral relations with Georgia's two separatist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Government are concerned by the Russian proposals, which appear inconsistent with Russia's stated commitment to respect Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
The Government welcome the Council discussion and believe it is important that the EU continues to make clear its commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity, including with Russia.seen at 11:07, 28 April in Written Ministerial Statements.
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