§ Mr. Joseph Dean
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the last meeting of the Council of Ministers.
§ Dr. Owen
I represented the United Kingdom, with my hon. Friend the Minister of State, at a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 7th February.
The Council discussed Greek accession to the Communities and agreed to make every effort to conclude the negotiations this year. Detailed negotiation will begin on 10th February. I restated British support for enlargement to 12 and called for more rapid progress in preparations for negotiations with Portugal and Spain.
The Council heard a report on the negotiations for a new agreement on agricultural products with Cyprus. Following further discussion in the Permanent Representatives' Committee and consideration of certain questions by Agriculture Ministers on 13th-14th February, it is hoped that a revised offer will be approved by Foreign Ministers so that the negotiations can be concluded.
We discussed the problems caused by Japan's large trade and payments surpluses and agreed guidelines for the Commission to use in conjunction with the Presidency in early discussions with the Japanese Government.
On steel, the Council gave general approval to the proposed agreements with the EFTA countries on the price of their exports to the Community.
The Commission reported that a non-preferential trade agreement between the Community and China had been initialled on 3rd February.
In a review of current activity on North-South issues, the Council reaffirmed the importance of maintaining the unity of the member States.
Various technical subjects were dealt with. In particular, the Council approved the figure of 150,000 tonnes for the Community's 1978 skimmed milk powder aid programme.