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March General Affairs and External Relations Council Meeting to Focus on European Council Preparations

The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council will take place on 10 March, chaired by the President of the Council, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dr Dimitrij Rupel. The main topic on the General Affairs agenda will be the conclusions that will go forward to the European Council meeting at the end of the week. Under the External Relations heading, the ministers will discuss the situation in the Western Balkans, the Middle East, Iran, Zimbabwe and Georgia.

The Council meeting will begin with a discussion on the state of play in the WTO Doha Development Agenda negotiations ahead of possible WTO ministerial discussions in Geneva. This will also be discussed the day before (Sunday) at the informal meeting of Trade Ministers in Brussels. The Council is expected to adopt conclusions and to re-affirm the crucial importance that the EU has attached to the DDA negotiations since 2001. The Ministers should also stress the importance of achieving a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced final outcome and urge WTO partners to make meaningful contributions to the negotiations, reflecting their level of development.

A session on General Affairs will follow, which will focus on preparations for the spring meeting of the European Council on 13 and 14 March in Brussels. The Council will examine draft conclusions prepared by the Presidency. The main topics on the agenda of the European Council are the launch of the new three-year cycle of the EU’s Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs (for the period 2008-10), the preparation of an integrated climate change and energy policy, and the stability of financial markets.

The new Lisbon strategy cycle is geared towards the implementation and delivery of reforms, following the priorities agreed at the 2006 spring European Council. Concerning climate and energy policy, the focus will be on a reinforced commitment to deliver on the ambitious goals set last year. As regards the situation on the financial markets, which continue to be fragile after the turbulences of last summer, the need for greater transparency will be emphasised.

The session on External Relations will focus on the Middle East, especially in the light of the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. The Ministers will also assess the situation in Zimbabwe ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 29 March and discuss the situation in Georgia following the January presidential elections and ahead of the May parliamentary elections.

At lunch, the Ministers will discuss the situation in the Western Balkans in the light of developments since their last meeting on 18 February. The Council is also expected to adopt conclusions focusing on Bosnia and Herzegovina and regional cooperation. The second item on the lunch agenda is Iran. Ministers will discuss the nuclear issue, following the latest IAEA report and the adoption on 3 March of a third resolution by the UN Security Council.

On the margins of the March General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting, the EU-Council of Europe meeting and the EU-Algeria Association Council meeting will take place on 10 March, and the EU Troika-Albania meeting and the EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council meeting on 11 March.


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Date: 08.03.2008