Skip to content .

Service navigation

Main Navigation


Further information

Link to opens in a new window




Report presented by the State Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr Matjaž Šinkovec, on the discussion after the GAERC meeting of 18.2.2008 to the AFET Committee of the EP

Check against delivery

Mr Chairman,

Distinguished Members of the European Parliament,

As a representative elected to the first democratic Slovenian Parliament and as the Chairman of its Committee on Foreign Policy who was the first to establish contact with the European Parliament, it is my very great pleasure to be able to address you today.

I am pleased to present a report on yesterday's meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council and to be able to exchange views on relevant topical issues with you, the members of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, in a spirit of transparency and partnership.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council yesterday discussed the following items: presentation of the draft agenda for the March European Council, the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), Lebanon, Burma/Myanmar, the situation in Chad and Kenya, the state of affairs in WTO negotiations and the Doha Development Agenda, Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and Afghanistan. However, discussions focused mainly on the Western Balkans and, more specifically, Kosovo.

During the External Relations session, the Council adopted conclusions on the Western Balkans, the European Neighbourhood Policy, Kenya, Chad and Burma/Myanmar.

Without discussion, the Council also endorsed conclusions on the Croatian Ecological and Fisheries Protection Zone. As of 1 January 2008, Croatia started implementing the EFPZ in respect of EU Member States too. The Council, therefore, again called upon Croatia to refrain from implementing any aspect of the EFPZ in respect of EU Member States until a joint solution could be found in a European spirit and Croatia's commitments to the EU honoured. The Council asked the Commission to continue dialogue with the Croatian authorities and report back at the next Council meeting.

At the General Affairs Council session, the Presidency presented the draft agenda for the March European Council which will be of assistance when formulating conclusions in the weeks before the summit of the Heads of State and Government of the EU Member States. The main topics of the March European Council will include the launch of a new three-year cycle of the Lisbon strategy, climate change and energy policy, and the stability of financial markets.

As far as the External Relations session is concerned, allow me to begin with the issue of the Western Balkans.

On 17 February, the Kosovo National Assembly adopted a resolution declaring independence.

After very intense negotiations, the Council succeeded in reaching agreement on a common text, which sends a strong message of European unity to the Western Balkan region. The Council underlined the EU's commitment to stability in the region. It aims to contribute to stability through its ESDP EULEX mission, the appointment of an EU Special Representative in Kosovo and its readiness to use Community instruments to promote the economic and political development of the region. At the same time, the Council recognised that it is within the competence of each Member State to decide on its relations with Kosovo.

In a separate statement, the Council condemned the acts of violence in Belgrade, Mitrovica and elsewhere, particularly those against foreign diplomatic missions, and called upon the authorities to ensure the safety of EU citizens and their property.

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) remains the key priority in the EU's external relations with a view to strengthening relations between the EU and its neighbours to the east and south. Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner updated the Council on the current priority areas for action: economic integration (concluding free-trade agreements with ENP partners), mobility (simplification of visa procedures) and regional cooperation.

In its conclusions, the Council reaffirmed the main principles of the ENP (partnership, joint ownership, differentiation and an approach tailored to the needs of individual ENP partners). It also highlighted the areas on which the EU wishes to focus in its endeavours to strengthen this policy. Apart from the areas addressed in the Commissioner's presentation, these include: strengthening interpersonal relations and the enhanced role of civil society; EU assistance in implementing sectoral reform and modernisation in the countries with an Action Plan, as well as increased financial assistance from the EU.

On the basis of the report by Javier Solana on his recent visit to Egypt, the Council also discussed the MEPP (Middle East Peace Process), with specific emphasis on Gaza and security issues. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner expressed concern over the continuing construction of settlements. However, the news of continued dialogue between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert is encouraging. Moreover, certain EU activities, such as the EUPOL COPPS operation, are successfully under way.

In its conclusions, the Council reiterated its support for the work of the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Professor Gambari, in Burma/Myanmar and expressed concern regarding the lack of progress in the country. The European Union insists that the opposition and ethnic groups should be fully involved in the ongoing processes as the only way to achieve national reconciliation and stability. The EU also advocates a balanced approach to tougher sanctions and increased humanitarian assistance. The issue will remain on the EU's agenda.

The Council also debated the situation in Chad and Darfur based on the assessment made by SG/HR Solana. The Ministers agreed that the EU should stick to its decision to deploy a EUFOR mission to Chad/Central African Republic. Events on the ground have shown how important it is to ensure a secure environment, especially for refugees and internally displaced persons. The Council adopted conclusions condemning the attacks by armed groups directed against the Chad Government, calling upon the parties to resort to political dialogue, expressing its support for the efforts of the African Union in seeking a lasting and peaceful solution to the crisis, voicing concern regarding the regional repercussions of the crisis and urging the Chad and Sudanese Governments to improve their mutual relations. Furthermore, it supports the political agreement concluded between the Chad Government and almost all the legal opposition groups on 13 August 2007, expresses concern about the arrest of certain unarmed opposition members and underlines the impartial, neutral and independent nature of EUFOR's mandate in Chad/Central African Republic.

Commissioner Louis Michel briefed the Council on his recent visit to Kenya. The Council agreed that it will continue to pay due attention to the development of the situation in the country. The relevant conclusions adopted by the Council reflect the main points of yesterday's discussion, pointing out, inter alia, its deep concern regarding the continued violence, uncertainty and instability in Kenya, as well as its full support for the Panel of Eminent African Personalities led by Mr Kofi Annan. The EU calls upon the Kenyan side to pursue constructive dialogue aimed at reaching a legitimate political agreement.

On Economic Partnership Agreements, the Commission outlined to the Council the state of play in terms of the conclusion of EPAs or interim agreements with the six ACP regions. Special emphasis should be placed on fostering regional integration. The Slovenian Presidency plans to hold the main discussion on Economic Partnership Agreements at the May GAERC meeting, with the participation of ministers responsible for development cooperation.

The Commission presented a report on the status of negotiations within the World Trade Organisation. Commissioner Mandelson described the current juncture as a critical phase in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations. Although the recently tabled proposals for amendments on agricultural and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) were not completely satisfactory, the Commission was still confident that it could strike a deal within the scope of its negotiation mandate. The Council urged the Commission to stand firm within the scope of its mandate and to try to reach a balanced deal.

This concludes my presentation. Let me underline once more my sincere appreciation of your activities and my hope to cooperate with you in the future.


Accessibility     . Print     .

Date: 21.02.2008