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Enlarged General Affairs and External Relations Council meets on 26 and 27 May

The June General Affairs and External Relations Council will meet in the so-called "jumbo format", with EU defence and development ministers meeting alongside the EU foreign ministers.

The General Affairs Council, chaired by Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, will focus on the preparations for the June meeting of the European Council. It will briefly examine an annotated draft agenda prepared by the presidency, where the main subjects are the review of the ratification process and progress made in preparatory work on the Lisbon Treaty; freedom, security and justice; policy implications of high food prices; and economic, social and environmental issues, as well as the Western Balkans and other aspects of EU external relations.

The annotated draft agenda will serve as the basis for draft European Council conclusions to be prepared by the presidency.

In the external relations portion of the GAERC meeting, foreign ministers will review the state of play regarding the negotiations on the WTO's Doha Development Agenda (DDA). They will also discuss and adopt conclusions on the situation in Somalia, as well as in Zimbabwe, where the date for the second round of the presidential election has recently been announced.

Also on the foreign ministers' agenda is Iraq, following last month's visit to Brussels by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and ahead of the first annual Review Conference of the International Compact with Iraq (ICI) to be held in Stockholm on 29 May. The ministers will adopt conclusions on this point.

The Council will also discuss recent developments in Georgia and the situation in the country after the 21 May parliamentary elections.

Poland and Sweden will present their ideas on how to strengthen the eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy. This issue will be further discussed at the European Council in June.

Over lunch, ministers will discuss the situation in the Western Balkans, particularly in Serbia following the parliamentary, regional and local elections on 11 May 2008. They are expected to adopt conclusions on this point. The ministers will also discuss the Middle East peace process and the situation in Lebanon.

Lastly, the foreign ministers are expected to adopt negotiation directives for a new framework agreement with the Russian Federation. This will be a good basis to launch negotiations on the agreement at the upcoming EU Summit with Russia, which will take place at the end of June in Hanty-Mansijsk.

EU foreign ministers will also hold a joint session with EU defence ministers. Together they will examine the ESDP operations, Afghanistan and children in armed conflicts.

EU defence ministers are also meeting separately in the framework of this GAERC meeting, under the chairmanship of Slovenian Defence Minister Karel Erjavec. Their debate will focus on three main topics: current EU operations in the Western Balkans (EUFOR Althea) and in Africa, EU capabilities development with a focus on EU Battlegroups, and the work of the European Defence Agency.  During their working lunch, they will discuss cooperation with strategic partners NATO and the UN, focusing on ongoing operations.

EU development ministers will meet on Monday to hold an exchange of views on the rights of the child in development cooperation and humanitarian aid. They will also review the situation in Burma/Myanmar following the devastating cyclone Nargis. Chairing this meeting will be the Slovenian State Secretary in charge of development issues, Andrej Šter.

On Tuesday the development ministers will take stock of the EU's contribution towards the UN's millennium development goals (MDGs), and are expected to adopt conclusions highlighting the continued role of the EU as the world's largest donor and a global partner for development. They will also take stock of the process of negotiating and implementing economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with ACP countries.


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Date: 23.05.2008