Statement by the Minister of State for European Affairs, Joint Committee on European Affairs, 8 December 2004 Part III
The decision of the Ukrainian Supreme Court on 3 December to annul the results of the second round of Presidential elections, held on 21 November, is a welcome development. A re-run of the second round will take place on 26 December and Ireland intends to provide international observers to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe election observation mission, as we have in previous rounds.
I hope that the preliminary recommendations of the OSCE election observation mission in advance of the re-run of the second round will be very carefully examined by the Ukrainian authorities, and that the appropriate steps will be taken. As the Committee is aware, Javier Solana has played a key role, together with the Presidents of Poland and Lithuania, in facilitating negotiations between the opposition and the government at this key moment in Ukrainian politics. Thankfully, all involved have reacted to events calmly and peacefully, and I hope that this remains the case in the period leading up to the election eighteen days from now. The people of Ukraine have an important decision to make and the European Union, along with other mediators, will work in the coming weeks to facilitate free and fair elections on 26 December, based on international standards.
Ministers will also review progress under the European Neighbourhood Policy. The Presidency is keen that the Council adopt Action Plans for seven countries under the Neighbourhood Policy - Monday’s meeting will be the last opportunity to do so during the Dutch Presidency. To meet this timetable the Commission will need to approve all seven plans tomorrow, allowing for a political discussion at Council.
The countries concerned are Moldova, Ukraine, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia. In the case of Ukraine, the situation is evolving rapidly and an assessment will have to be made at the Council on Monday as to whether to proceed with adoption of the Action Plan or postpone adoption until the situation stabilises.
Moving on, Ministers will review recent developments in relation to the Middle East Peace Process. This issue will also be discussed at the European Council later next week. At Monday’s meeting, the main issue for discussion will be preparations for the Palestinian presidential elections, on 9 January next, and the political situation on the ground. It is not expected that the Council will adopt conclusions, as the European Council will adopt a declaration on the Middle East. The content of this declaration will, of course, depend on developments in the coming days. I would hope to see the Council reaffirm its own commitment to efforts to maintain stability, bring an end to violence and restore momentum to the Peace Process, and also reaffirm its belief that the wider international community must also play its part in making the most of the current favourable environment.
There will also be a meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council in the margins of the Council, which will provide a useful opportunity for an exchange of views with Israel following on from the constructive discussions which took place at the recent Euro-Mediterranean Midterm Ministerial Meeting in The Hague.
Ministers are also expected to discuss Iran on Monday. At its meeting on 22 November, the Council discussed the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme and welcomed Iran’s decision to suspend fully all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and to sustain this suspension while negotiation is underway on an agreement on long-term arrangements. It is likely that discussion will focus on the way ahead on this issue following last month’s meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors. I welcome the adoption by consensus at that meeting of the latest resolution on this subject and would underline the need for Iran to extend full and prompt cooperation to the Agency Director General in his continuing investigations into the remaining outstanding questions.