I attended the meeting of the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 17 June, at which preparations for the Seville European Council were discussed. The items considered included Council reform, illegal immigration, preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and enlargement. In the external relations area, Ministers discussed the Middle East, India-Pakistan, the EU special representative in Afghanistan, European security and defence policy, relations with Iran, the western Balkans, Albania, Zimbabwe, the International Criminal Court and the Common Foreign and Security Policy budget. The conclusions of the General Affairs Council are available on the Internet.
At the General Affairs Council I briefed EU partners on the declarations which the Government subsequently secured at the Seville European Council. The Seville Declarations consist of a National Declaration by Ireland and a European Council Declaration. Both documents confirm that our traditional policy of military neutrality is in full conformity with existing EU treaties, including the Nice treaty. The Taoiseach made a detailed statement to the House on the Seville Declarations on Tuesday. It is my hope that the declarations will allay concerns about our military neutrality and provide a basis for the people to approve the Treaty of Nice which will be put to a referendum in the autumn on the basis of the referendum Bill just published.