Joint Committee on European Affairs, 18 November 2004, General Affairs and External Relations Council, Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dermot Ahern, TD - Part IV
Effectiveness of the EU External Actions
This will be the Council’s fifth debate on improving the effectiveness of EU external policies. It will allow the Council to review the coherence of these policies, to consider how the effectiveness of EU assistance can be improved, and to propose guidelines for the following year. In this context Ministers will consider progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals which is a key EU objective. To ensure that these Goals are met, the EU must work to improve policy coherence in EU external action. It must also prepare to take a lead at the UN stock-taking on these Goals in 2005. Minister Lenihan will return to this point. In the context of maximising the effectiveness of EU external assistance, Ministers will focus on the need to pursue constructive policies across the range of issues of interest in all developing countries.
Ministers will also note the relationship between peace and security and sustainable development. Drawing on the full range of instruments available to it, the Union is well placed to contribute to enhancing international security and stability. At the same time, the Union will also work to ensure that international security concerns are addressed in synergy with development objectives. This is the approach which the Union is currently taking in Darfur, where support and assistance to the African Union mission there is being provided both by EU Member States and through the Peace Facility for Africa, which became operational during Ireland’s recent EU Presidency.
In view of the number of issues to be discussed on Monday, the Presidency has taken the Euromed Ministerial Meeting off the agenda. The Euromed meeting was a procedural item and preparations are in hand for the meeting on 29-30 November in The Hague. I will be representing Ireland at the meeting and look forward to the opportunity which it will afford to meet my opposite numbers from the Mediterranean countries in a forum which will allow for a free and constructive exchange of views. Conclusions on Belarus are expected to be adopted without discussion. The issue of Belarus arose at the Council on 2 November and the conclusions for this meeting reconfirm the EU's strong concerns regarding the situation in Belarus following the election and referendum held last month.
EU –Western Balkans Forum
The annual EU –Western Balkans Forum will take place in the margins of the Council on Monday evening. At the Forum, Ministers from the Western Balkans will have an opportunity to brief their EU counterparts on their countries’ efforts to implement the Thessaloniki Agenda. The Presidency and High Representative Solana will report on EU–Western Balkans relations and the situation in the region and we will also hear from the Commission on its activities. The incoming Luxembourg Presidency will make a short presentation on its policy objectives for the first half of 2005 and the Forum will conclude with a signing ceremony for agreements which will permit the countries of the region to participate in Community programmes. There will also be a Cooperation Council with South Africa.
I will be happy to take questions from members of the Committee. First, though, with your permission, I will now ask Minister of State Lenihan to brief the members of the Committee on the Development issues on the Council’s agenda.