Statement by Minister of State Kitt to the Joint Committee on European Affairs (Part II)
Turning now to the session on External Relations.
Middle East Peace Process
The Council will consider developments in the Middle East Peace Process. Last week the international Quartet met in New York at Principals’ level. The European Union was represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, High Representative Solana and Commissioner Patten. The Quartet statement that was issued reaffirmed the Roadmap and the commitment to a negotiated two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is envisaged that Council conclusions will welcome the Quartet statement.
Ministers will also consider the outcome of the Euro–Mediterranean mid-term Ministerial meeting, which was held in Dublin Castle on 5 – 6 May. Minister Cowen will report on bilateral meetings held with both the Israeli and Palestinian Foreign Ministers, which took place in the margins of that meeting. Minister Cowen will also report on contacts with Arab partners at the meeting on the question of the Arab League Summit, at which the Presidency intends to be represented at a high level. In this connection, Ministers will consider the outcome of the Arab League Foreign Minister’s meeting which took place in Cairo on 7 and 8 May.
European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)
In accordance with mandates issued by the European Council, it has now become the norm, followed by successive Presidencies, that EU Defence Ministers should meet within the framework of the Council and with their Foreign Minister counterparts, at least once during every six-month period. Accordingly, this month the Council will meet with Defence Ministers.
The month’s Council will permit a review of a range of issues relating to both military and civilian aspects of EU peace-keeping and crisis management under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).
In terms of specifics, the Council is due to endorse a report prepared by High Representative Javier Solana on developing the EU’s capacity for Rapid Response in the peacekeeping and crisis management area, particularly in support of the United Nations. The United Nations has expressed keen support for the development of this sort of EU capability. The Council is also expected to:
- consider measures aimed at helping to assist development of African capacities for peace-keeping and crisis management;
- consider ongoing work on the development of other aspects of the EU’s capacity for military peacekeeping and crisis management;
- review progress on the steps being taken to establish a ‘European Defence Agency’, as mandated by the Thessaloniki European Council in June 2003; and
- endorse proposals aimed at further developing the EU’s means of protecting civilian populations against the effects of terrorist attacks.
In the area of civilian crisis management, Ministers will be reviewing the two EU police missions currently underway in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is also expected that Ministers will take note of ongoing work in the future development of EU capabilities for civilian crisis management.
I am pleased to report to the Committee that good progress is being made in each of the various areas. Further detailed reports on these matters and on the closely-related subject of conflict prevention will be submitted for approval by Ministers in June prior to onward transmission to the European Council.
Harri Holkeri, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Kosovo, will participate in the Council for an exchange of views on developments in Kosovo since the flare up of violence there in March. He is likely to discuss with Ministers ways in which the UN’s policy of ‘Standards before Status’ can be strengthened. The EU remains fully committed to building a stable, secure and multi-ethnic Kosovo. The political leaders of Kosovo need now to demonstrate in an unambiguous manner their commitment to a multi-ethnic society, upholding the security and human rights of all communities in Kosovo.
The Thessaloniki Agenda, agreed at the EU-Western Balkans summit last June, reaffirmed the European perspective of the countries of the Western Balkans. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will take a step forward towards realising its ambition of eventual membership of the EU if the Council formally accepts the Presidency proposal to request the Commission to prepare its Opinion on the Macedonian application for EU membership. The Council will also welcome adoption later this month of European Partnerships for each of the countries of the region as an important demonstration of the EU’s commitment to the implementation of the Thessaloniki Agenda. The full implementation of the Thessaloniki Agenda has been an Irish Presidency priority.
European Neighbourhood Policy
The Council is expected to consider the European Neighbourhood Policy on the basis of a Strategy Paper which is to be adopted by the Commission today. It is possible that, given the very short lead time between the release of this Paper and the Council meeting, the Policy will have to be considered at the Council meeting on 14 June, in preparation for the European Council.
This is a very important initiative which Ireland strongly supports. It is all the more important now that enlargement has taken place. Many of the countries involved in the process now share direct land borders with the Union.
Together with the Strategy Paper to be adopted today, the Commission will also be issuing a draft financial instrument, together with “country papers” for each of the countries for which the first group of “action plans” under the policy will be created: Ukraine, Moldova, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Presidency will be working closely with the Commission to ensure that the Policy can be further developed before the end of the Irish Presidency.