|On Seville's Top Agenda|
On Seville's Top Agenda
EU General Affairs Council: Preliminary Statement made by Mr Dominique de Villepin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at his Press conference in Luxembourg, June 17, 2002. (excerpts). Source: Quai d'Orsay, Paris.
Today we discussed the main subjects which the Heads of State and government will be dealing with at the Seville European Council (21-22 June) and, at the top of the agenda, the agricultural chapter of the accession negotiations.
Enlargement / CAP/ Direct Support Schemes
(…) The Presidency today presented a new text on the issue of direct payments to the candidate countries on their accession. I said that France could go along with this compromise because it was in line with the principles we're particularly committed to: direct payments are part of the acquis communautaire; there will be only one Common Agricultural Policy, it's the transitional procedures for phasing them in which still have to be defined for the candidate countries. (…)
This agreement is, in the first place, good for Europe and good for the enlargement since it sends a strong signal to the candidate countries regarding the EU's determination to adhere to the timetable and road map, and bolsters the political momentum of the enlargement. This agreement is good for France, since even though today we haven't managed to sort out the practical arrangements for the candidate countries' eligibility for direct payments on their accession, the principles I set out to you last week are being respected: acceptance of the acquis communautaire and thus of the direct payments, adherence to the timetable with the adoption of a common position on the agricultural chapter, and clear distinction between the accession negotiations and the internal discussion on the future of the CAP. (…)
(…) The issue of the reform of the Council was raised. Last March in Barcelona, Mr Solana had put forward several ideas for improving the operation of the European Council and Council of Ministers. Taking these as a basis, the Presidency gave us a report on the measures with a view to preparing the Council for enlargement, measures which can be decided in Seville without having to amend the treaties.
This morning, I said that we fully concurred with the report's proposals, regarding streamlining the European Council's work, splitting the General Affairs Council into two with the creation of an External Relations Council, reducing the number of specialized ministerial councils and increasing transparency in the work of the Council. However, I, incidentally like several of my colleagues, made known our strong objection to applying qualified majority voting to the European Council. France considers that the consensus rule is one of the essential bases of the European Council's authority. (…)
Johannesburg / Sustainable Development
Third subject: preparation of the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development. In the light of the results of the last preparatory committee held in Bali, we adopted conclusions setting out the European position for Johannesburg. I reiterated today that we Europeans have to demonstrate greater solidarity with the countries of the South and that, as regards Africa and NEPAD, I was keen for Seville to be the opportunity for the EU to send a powerful political signal a few days before the Kananaskis G8 summit.
Another subject: immigration. As you know, the Spanish Presidency wants to make this one of the major items on the Seville agenda – an ambition we wholly share since it's a very important issue for the general public in our countries. (…) I repeated that we were in favour of the EU taking a firm line vis-à-vis countries refusing to cooperate in the effort to stem illegal immigration. But I also said we needed to give preference to dialogue with those countries in a spirit of partnership and offer incentives rather than adopt a punitive approach involving sanctions. Linking the fight against immigration to development assistance would penalize, in the first place, the citizens of any country on which sanctions were imposed, would worsen that country's economic situation and, paradoxically, end up increasing the migratory flows. This position was supported by other delegations. So the Heads of State and Government will look at this issue again in Seville and we're confident of the possibility of reaching an agreement. (…)
We then talked about relations between the European Union and Iran. We reached an agreement. (…) I repeated that we desired the rapid implementation of all the elements of that agreement, i.e. a trade agreement, a declaration on the political dialogue and an exchange of letters on terrorism. We consider that these three elements form an indissociable whole, with, for us, the priority lying above all in the political message addressed to Iran, with especial importance attached to essential subjects like the Middle East, terrorism, non-proliferation, respect for human rights and her attitude with respect to Afghanistan. The dialogue with Iran will be wholly meaningful if the European Union succeeds in expressing itself very clearly and very firmly on these subjects.
We also managed to agree on the financing of European operations in the military sphere. France made a major contribution to this agreement, the objective being the widest possible definition of "common costs" in line with the spirit of European defence. The development of the European Security and Defence Policy is a priority for France, and today's agreement is a significant concrete step forward. (…)./.