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Dr Rupel presents the programme and priorities of the Slovenian Presidency to the Council of Europe

Photo:  Sandro Weltin \ Council of Europe

Dr Dimitrij Rupel, Slovenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and current President of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, today presented the programme and priorities of the Slovenian EU Council Presidency to ambassadors at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His speech placed particular focus on issues falling directly within the Council of Europe’s express remit, cooperation between the EU and the CoE, and relations between the EU and countries that are members of the Council of Europe but not the European Union.

In this regard Dr Rupel said that reviving and stepping up the pace of the Thessaloniki Agenda, which the EU agreed in 2003 as a means of offering a European future to all the countries of the Western Balkans. He initially mentioned the EU’s offer to Serbia of this Monday: a political agreement opening the door to the EU for Serbia, and which includes increased cooperation, trade measures, relaxation of the visa regime, and cooperation in the field of culture and education. Slovenia is striving for a date to be defined for the start of EU membership negotiations with FYR Macedonia, and hopes in relation to Bosnia-Herzegovina that it will be able to sign a stability and association agreement with the EU this spring. It also wants the association process to accelerate for Montenegro and Albania.

On Kosovo, Dr Rupel said work there, including increased EU engagement, must be tailored towards greater stability and security for the entire region.

Dr Rupel informed the Council of Europe of its programme on relations with other countries, including the approaching troika meetings with Russia and Ukraine, and meetings in the South Caucasus countries, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan as part of EU neighbourhood policy. He also looked forward to the spring summit between Russia and the European Union.

Dr Rupel also stated that the EU and Council of Europe had always enjoyed close relations, and emphasised CoE involvement in the transition period following the fall of the Berlin Wall. He said that the Council of Europe’s role in the exercise of human rights was very important and that the EU should support such activities. This cooperation was highlighted in May last year by the signing of a special agreement, which will contribute to consolidation of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The purpose of this agreement is to bring individual citizens closer to the values on which the EU and Council of Europe are based. To that end, the Slovenian Presidency will continue with efforts to ensure the EU’s accession to the Human Rights Convention. These efforts include the creation of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, which will work to ensure all EU citizens enjoy a full range of human rights. Dr Rupel closed by mentioning the important role played by the European Court of Human Rights.

In his capacity as President of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, Dr Rupel had a meeting with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, at which they exchanged views on cooperation between the EU and the CoE.


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Date: 31.01.2008