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EU Foreign Affairs Council November 2012

EU Foreign Affairs Council   Nov 12

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): My right honourable friend the Minister for Europe (David Lidington) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Minister for International Security Strategy attended the European Defence Agency Steering Board and the Defence Foreign Affairs Council (Defence FAC) in Brussels on the morning of 19 November. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) in Brussels on the afternoon of 19 November. They both attended a lunch for Foreign and Defence Ministers. I attended the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on 20 November.

Foreign Affairs Council, Defence Foreign Affairs Council, and related meetings

These meetings were chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland. Commissioners Piebalgs (Development), Barnier (Internal Market and Services), and Füle (Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy) were also in attendance for some of the discussions.

A provisional report of the meetings and all conclusions adopted can be found at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/133604. pdf.

European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board

An EDA Steering Board at Defence Ministers level was held immediately before the Defence FAC. Norway was present for the first time since signing a co-operation agreement with the EDA.

The steering board agreed the EDA work programme 2013 and the EDA work plan for 2013-15. In addition to these action points, the steering board endorsed a pooling and sharing code of conduct to be implemented voluntarily at national level and received an update on the interaction between defence and wider EU policies.

Defence Foreign Affairs Council

The three current EU military operations, Operation Atalanta (counter-piracy), Operation Althea (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the EU Training Mission Somalia (military training mission) were discussed in the Council. The Minister expressed the UK's support for these ongoing operations.

 

The Minister raised the UK's desire to increase the utility of battlegroups including through better use of their constituent capabilities. The NATO Secretary- General was present throughout the operational discussions, focusing on the importance of EU and NATO co-operation.

Commissioner Barnier briefed Ministers on the work of the defence task force designed to foster a stronger and more competitive European defence industry ahead of the December 2013 European Council discussion on defence. The high representative concluded that the issue deserved further attention in spring 2013 and that the EDA should continue to represent member states' views on the task force.

The Minister successfully secured a budget freeze for the European Defence Agency (EDA) for 2013, making it clear that in the current financial climate, when we were making cuts to the UK defence (and other) budgets, we must seek continuously to drive efficiency and scrutinise every pound spent on defence. For this reason, we could not accept a budget increase at this time. The Council subsequently agreed to freeze the EDA budget for 2013 at the same level as 2012 (€30.5 million).

Defence and Foreign Ministers Lunch

Mali

Foreign and Defence Ministers discussed the situation in Mali, including planning for a possible EU Training Mission. Ministers agreed conclusions on Mali, and recognised the need for EU action. UK Ministers stressed the need for adequate planning, including force protection and co-ordination with the planned Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) operation. The high representative said that the European External Action Service (EEAS) would adapt the crisis management concept on this basis and that she was considering appointing an EU special representative for the Sahel.

2013 European Council on Defence

Ministers held an orientation debate in view of the substantial debate on defence matters that is set to take place at the European Council in December 2013.

Ministers endorsed the high representative's intention to frame the debate around the EU's collective ambition to act as a security provider through the common security and defence policy (CSDP) as part of a comprehensive approach; to work closely with strategic partners to develop defence capabilities; and to innovate, notably through a strong industrial and technological base. UK Ministers stressed that a successful debate should focus on practical issues including how to ensure that Europe develops better defence capabilities; that our defence industrial base is well placed to produce these capabilities; and that we improve the delivery of CSDP missions and operations.


Source : Hansard   30 Nov 2012 : Column WS31