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EU Troika meeting with South Africa headed by Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel

Relations between the European Union and the Republic of South Africa and an overall assessment of the situation in Africa were the key topics of the EU-South Africa ministerial meeting held today in Slovenia. The meeting, headed by the Slovenian Foreign Minister and current President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Dr Dimitrij Rupel, was also attended by the Commissioner Louis Michel on behalf of the European Commission and a South African delegation headed by Dr Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Representatives of the Council Secretariat and France, the next EU Presidency country, also participated.

EU-South Africa cooperation

In opening, Dr Rupel pointed out that South Africa and the EU had adopted an action plan in May 2007, agreeing to develop a lasting relationship based on open and concrete dialogue conducted with mutual understanding and ownership of the process. It was also agreed that cooperation would be extended to new areas; the July Summit, organised under the French Presidency, will also discuss a formal framework for dialogue on peace and security. Negotiations on the economic partnership agreement, held under the responsibility of the Commission, are also important.

Dr Rupel said that the EU strongly supports the negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), which it would like to see concluded as soon as possible; however, this is only possible if all partners involved, including the EU and South Africa, strive for such an outcome. A comprehensive, ambitious and balanced outcome of negotiations remains the highest priority of the EU’s trade policy; the EU will, therefore, further strive to reach the necessary multilateral convergence on all the main issues.

Situation in South Africa

The Slovenian Foreign Minister thanked the guests for their report on the latest events. "We wish to assure the Government of South Africa of our full support in its efforts to suppress riots. In this context, we also welcome the firm and clear statements made by your President," stressed Dr Rupel, adding that the EU would like to convey its sympathy to all the victims of the violence, and their families, in particular the foreign nationals that had come to South Africa in search of employment or asylum. As part of the aid efforts, the EU is willing to offer every possible help and support with the aim of alleviating the suffering of the migrant workers and refugees.

International issues

On the Middle East peace process, Dr Rupel pointed out that the EU and its partners were doing everything possible to move the Annapolis process forward. He touched upon recent international meetings and assessed that, at this stage, the clear conclusion was that, despite the various efforts undertaken, no major progress had been made. This applied to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the situation in the West Bank and, in particular, the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, both sides and other players should be strongly encouraged to make progress in all areas. Dr Rupel noted that recent events in Lebanon - with the election of the President of the Republic - and talks between Israel and Syria are seen as important, the same being true of contacts with Hamas.

Dr Rupel went on to inform the guests about the situation in the Western Balkans and pointed out that the EU had assured the region of a future in Europe. Assessing the situation in the individual countries, Dr Rupel focused in particular on the political situation in Serbia after the recent elections that were marked by a pronounced shift towards the pro-European bloc; he also pointed to the situation in Kosovo where the EU was engaged through its EULEX mission. In this context, the Slovenian Foreign Minister stressed that Kosovo was a European issue, one which the EU is therefore actively addressing.

The EU regards China’s activities in Africa as positive and wishes to build on these relations; Dr Rupel informed his fellow ministers that the European Commission was drafting a communication on starting a three-way dialogue between China, the African Union and the European Union.

ESDP missions in Africa

Dr Rupel also spoke about EU activities under the European Security and Defence Policy. He said that the peace process in Nairobi and Goma in the last few months had contributed to the stabilisation of the situation in the eastern DR Congo. The EU Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region had also contributed through his endeavours and measures undertaken by the European Community. The EUSEC mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, supporting Congolese efforts towards defence sector reform, was currently in its fourth year. Cooperation between EUSEC and South African colleagues in Kinshasa is useful and based on mutual support and a confidential exchange of view-points. In the next few months, EUSEC will attempt to provide support for the deployment of new rapid reaction forces. EU expects other partners, especially South Africa, to cooperate fully.

The EUFOR mission in Chad had reached its initial operational capacity on 15 March, as planned. Deployment is proceeding according to plan. There are currently 2 800 soldiers in the field, helping to boost security in the areas where they are deployed. When the mission becomes fully operational, there will be approximately 3 700. "The coordination of activities between the Governments of Chad and the Central African Republic is excellent. There is also simultaneous coordination with the deployment of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT)," reported the Slovenian Foreign Minister.

EU-Africa cooperation

The Slovenian Foreign Minister qualified the EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon as successful and assessed that it was now time to start preparing the joint strategy and action plan. Technical preparations are in progress and Dr Rupel voiced his belief in the willingness of African countries to effectively implement the plan.

Indeed, the EU welcomes the initiative to strengthen cooperation with the African Union as well as the efforts under the auspices of the UN Security Council to consolidate peace and security in Africa. The partnership between the European Union and the African Union attaches great importance to the area of peace and security; the EU provides substantial assistance to all peace initiatives on the African continent.

Situation in Africa

Dr Rupel devoted considerable attention to the situation in Sudan/Darfur. The political situation in the region has remained unchanged, which creates instability for the entire region. The latest rebel attacks in Khartoum once again pointed up security issues, with the risk of further deterioration in relations between Sudan and Chad. West Darfur has to deal with numerous attacks on the civilian population, the international community faces difficulties in providing humanitarian aid, and the number of refugees is on the increase. Despite the large numbers of peacekeeping forces, there are still not enough. The EU contributes through its mission in Northern Chad. The Slovenian Foreign Minister therefore invited South Africa to support the International Criminal Court prosecutor.

On Zimbabwe, Dr Rupel said that the EU assessed the first round of the presidential elections, which had taken place without major unrest, as a positive development; his concern, however, was that the second round of elections would be held as late as 27 June, which would lead to violence against representatives of the opposition. The European Union hence considers that the African Union should already have dispatched its observers to Zimbabwe.

Dr Rupel expressed concern, on behalf of the EU, about the situation in Somalia. He assessed the dialogue between the temporary transitional Government and the opposition as favourable; he also added that the Government needed more support from the international community, especially for its efforts in favour of reconciliation. Security in the country needs to be improved and in this respect Dr Rupel pointed out that the EU makes a contribution to the salaries of the Somali police force. However, the EU entirely supports the efforts of the United Nations towards stabilising the situation in the country.

On the situation in Kenya, Dr Rupel noted that the European Union saw the effective intervention of African countries in addressing the Kenya crisis at the beginning of the year as a positive action. "Kenya is a good example of how concentric international pressure may help overcome the tensions following the post-election violence," stressed the Slovenian Foreign Minister.

At the end of the meeting, a joint communique more was issued.


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Date: 06.06.2008