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Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel chairs EU Troika -India meeting

The President of the EU Council for General Affairs and External Relations, Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dimitrij Rupel, chaired the EU ministerial Troika meeting with India in Delhi. The meeting focused, first, on a review of EU-Indian relations, then on international topics of current interest, mainly related to India and its neighbourhood, and an exchange of opinions on the most important global issues. It was attended by representatives of the Secretariat of the EU Council and the European Commission, France, the next Presidency country, was represented by the State Secretary for foreign affairs and human rights, Rama Yade, while the Indian delegation was headed by Pranab Mukherjee, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.


Collaboration between the EU and India

The initial discussion, focussing on relations between India and the European Union, was dedicated to strategic partnership; the EU has partnership arrangements with six countries, namely the USA, Canada, Russia, China, Japan and India. Partnership with India originated at the first summit eight years ago, and since then collaboration has progressed. Dr Rupel assessed, “We can be proud of the results.” An action plan was adopted in 2005 and dialogue has developed in many areas since; expert contacts have also accelerated. The launch of negotiations on a trade and investment agreement was agreed in 2006, and a common programme in the field of energy, environment, research and climate change in 2007. “This all takes our strategic partnership in the right direction,” commented Dr Rupel, adding that this was the right time to give new political impetus to the collaboration. An opportunity will present itself in autumn in Marseilles, at the EU-India summit during the French Presidency. As to collaboration, the Slovenian Minister judged that the time was ripe to start discussing an agreement on partnership and collaboration between India and the European Union.

Dr Rupel also took the opportunity to inform the meeting participants about the latest developments in the European Union: he mentioned the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon and the changes the Treaty brings to European Union institutional structures, with special emphasis on the provisions on EU external relations.


Assessment of international issues

One of the main international issues discussed at the meeting was the Middle East peace process. Dr Rupel outlined the latest events following the conference in Annapolis, including the second Quartet meeting in London on 2 May and the Palestine investment conference, held the week before in Bethlehem. He considered that, despite great efforts, success had so far been modest, especially in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but also as regards the situation in the West Bank and especially Gaza. This suggested that additional pressure was required to encourage talks. Evaluating the start of talks between Israel and Syria with Turkey as mediator as positive, Dr Rupel nonetheless stressed the need to insist on strengthening Israeli-Palestinian relations and to persevere with Egyptian mediation on the situation in Gaza. He also assessed as positive the election of the new Lebanon president, who “will be able to lead the country as a sovereign State in this period of major challenges.”

On EU-Russian relations, Dr Rupel emphasised the importance of the EU Council’s adoption on 26 May of the mandate for negotiations for a new agreement; negotiations will start at the forthcoming EU-Russia summit, to be held at the end of June in the Siberian town of Khanty-Mansiisk. This will be the twenty-first such summit and a good opportunity to assess mutual relations and to meet President Medvedov for the first time. “It will be an opportunity to open a new page in relations between Russia and the European Union,” underlined the Slovenian Foreign Minister, pointing out that many people in the EU had been paying a great deal of attention to the new Russian President’s first statements, the content of which had raised expectations of the summit.

Dr Rupel also assessed as positive the development of relations between the European Union and China. The breadth of relations facilitate discussions on a range of issues, including those which are at first sight very complex. This was confirmed by the European Commission’s recent visit to Beijing. The EU became aware of China’s greater involvement in international relations and global issues; discussions will be intensified in some spheres, such as energy and climate change. China’s participation in talks on nuclear arms in the Korean peninsula is also of high importance. The EU has been monitoring events in Tibet carefully and with considerable concern, and has invited China to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the protection of the Tibetan culture, religion and traditions. The Dalai Lama has undertaken to advocate non-violence and autonomy without pressing for independence. The EU also called for transparency of information and free media access to Tibet. On this point, Dr Rupel expressed satisfaction at the meeting between the Chinese authorities and the representatives of the Dalai Lama. “It is a step in the right direction; which we hope will lead to positive tangible results,” he said, adding that initial information on contacts between China’s representatives and the newly elected Taiwan government was also encouraging.


Global issues

”Climate change is one of the most important challenges of the present age and it is an issue which needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” were the Slovenian Foreign Minister’s opening words. He went on to stress the serious threats, such as shortages of resources and increased migration, unless the international community tackles the issue very seriously. He informed the Indian participants of EU decisions to adopt a climate change agreement for the period post-2012. The EU affirms that developed countries should play a lead role. It does not intend to force commitments on developing countries which already have poverty and other social issues to deal with; it should be noted, however, that there is a wide range of alternative solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Tackling climate change seriously also entails reducing air and water pollution. On this subject, Dr Rupel emphasised that the EU values good and constructive relations with India and hopes that the negotiations on a joint initiative will be completed by 2009, in order to be able to implement the initiative after 2012. The G8 summit in Japan should give this process new impetus.

On terrorism, Dr Rupel opened with regrets in respect of the recent terrorist attacks in Jaipur and confirmed that the EU wished to develop expert collaboration with India in combating terrorism. He also stressed the EU’s commitment to implementing United Nations decisions and resolutions on combating terrorism. Given the multiplicity of faiths and cultures represented there, establishing intercultural dialogue is also important for India.

Dr Rupel gave considerable attention to the issue of energy and biofuels, and agriculture. Energy security is closely linked to climate change issues. Although biofuels are strongly associated with the diversification of energy sources, the EU considers that the production of biofuels must not hold back food production and has therefore decided that it will no longer co-finance plantations intended for biofuels but will rather encourage research into second-generation biofuels that will not jeopardise food production. The Slovenian Foreign Minister invited India to join in preparations for a platform for international collaboration on energy efficiency.

With regard to rising food prices, the EU is adapting its subsidy policy; discussions are under way on measures to increase the cultivation of land dedicated to food production. In addition, several initiatives are being prepared in this field, including a large FAO conference in Rome next week, in which the EU will actively participate.

The last item on the agenda was the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The European Union has adopted and is implementing a strategy of non-proliferation of such arms, and also wishes to discuss this strategy in the context of the action plan with India. “It is a universal issue that cannot be restricted to the regional level,” noted Dr Rupel. He invited India to move closer to the non-proliferation regime, and to associate itself with the implementation of international instruments in this field. At the same time, the European Union is in favour of India’s active involvement in global discussions on the use of nuclear energy in the context of diversification of energy sources.


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Date: 06.06.2008