Statement by Minister of State Roche to the Joint Committee on European Affairs (Part II)
The Council will again discuss the current security and political situation in Iraq. In this context, I condemn the recent violent attacks in Iraq. Such attacks only serve to delay the time when Iraqi people can live in peace and security. Attacks on civilians cannot be justified under any circumstances and attacks against international relief agencies and targets with high risk of civilian casualties are particularly abhorrent.
The Government welcomed the adoption of Resolution 1511 by the Security Council on 16 October 2003. We recognise that it does not meet all the wishes of all the members of the Security Council. However, it represents an important advance towards the earliest possible restoration of sovereignty to the Iraqi people under a representative government. We also recognise that there are major practical security and institutional problems, which must be overcome if an Iraqi Government is to be able to function effectively.
The Government hopes that the role of the UN in Iraq outlined in the Resolution will prove sufficient for it to carry out its work effectively. This is a crucial time for Iraq and the entire international community must work together to restore peace and stability to a sovereign and democratic and independent Iraq as soon as possible, as called for unanimously by the members of the Security Council in Resolution 1511.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
The issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction will also be discussed at this month's Council with the presentation of a progress report on implementation of the Action Plan agreed last June. Ireland has traditionally been active in the non-proliferation and disarmament area and is pleased that the Basic Principles and Action Plan agreed in June have provided a basis for discussion and action at every level within the Union on this issue. As well as the progress report we expect to adopt a Common Position on the universalisation and reinforcement of multilateral agreements in the field of non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and means of delivery. This is a visible signal of the importance which the Union continues to attach to the existing multilateral structure dealing with disarmament and non-proliferation.
Iran is also on the agenda for this month's Council and discussion will focus on the report of the IAEA Director General which is due out this week, ahead of consideration of the issue by the IAEA Board of Governors on 20 November. I welcome Iranian presentation of a declaration of its nuclear activities to the IAEA last month and support this development as a demonstration of transparency and co-operation with the IAEA. I also welcome Iran's decision to immediately implement the provisions of the Additional Protocol and expect Iran to continue to co-operate fully with the IAEA.
Ministers will discuss follow up to the EU-Russia Summit which took place in Rome on 6 November 2003. The European Union was represented by the Italian Prime Minister, Mr Berlusconi, the Secretary-General/High Representative, Mr Solana, and by the President of the European Commission, Mr Prodi. President Putin represented the Russian Federation. The Summit specifically sought to make progress on the four spaces agreed at the St Petersburg Summit on 31 May 2003 relating to economic co-operation; external security; freedom, security and justice; and research and education. It endorsed the work to date of the High Level Group on the Common European Economic Space and agreed to continue this work, taking full account of the recommendations of the High Level Group report, with a view to achieving tangible results as soon as possible. The impact of enlargement on EU-Russia relations was also a major topic of discussion, and in this context, the EU underlined the importance of ensuring that Russia extends the EU-Russia Partnership and Co-operation Agreement to the new Member States from 1 May 2004.
Middle East Peace
Ministers will consider the situation in the Middle East in the light of recent developments on the ground and political contacts. The situation remains very grave and there has been little discernible progress towards peace over the past month. Prime Minister Queri has accepted a new mandate to replace his temporary Cabinet with a full administration, but there remain difficulties over control of the security forces. There have also bee reports of discreet contacts between Israeli and Palestinian Ministers. The implementation of the Roadmap remains at an impasse.
In the margins of the Council there will be an Association Council with Israel. This will give the European Union an opportunity to review the whole range of relations with Israel and also to send a strong message about our concerns at Israeli actions such as the continued construction of the Separation Wall and the expansion of illegal settlements.
The Council will also discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Ireland participated in an EU Troika to Afghanistan from 19-21 October. There is a broad degree of agreement between the Member States on the draft Conclusions in which the Council expresses concern at the security situation and drugs trade in the country; welcomes the expansion of ISAF through the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs); encourages continued International support for the Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA); and encourages the adoption of a constitution that abides by international standards of human rights, leading to the holding of free and fair elections in 2004.
On EU-Africa relations, Ireland warmly welcomes the renewed impetus provided to the EU-Africa dialogue by last Monday's Ministerial Troika meeting in Rome. We attach great importance to the development of EU-Africa relations and are heartened that these are now firmly back on track. Building on the momentum now established and working to strengthen the EU-Africa partnership will be one of Ireland's priorities as EU President. We look forward to hosting those meetings with the African Union which are already being planned within the framework of the enhanced dialogue during our Presidency.
Under Any Other Business, we understand from our Dutch colleagues that Foreign Minister Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, current Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, will outline his approach to the OSCE Ministerial Council, to be held in Maastricht from 1-2 December 2003. Discussions are ongoing in Vienna on a number of topics which will be addressed at the Ministerial meeting. Chief among these documents are the ‘Strategy to Address Threats to Security and Stability in the 21st Century', and the OSCE ‘Strategy Document in the Economic and Environmental Dimension'.
The Netherlands Chair-in-Office will also seek, at the Ministerial, the adoption of an OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, and an Action Plan on Roma and Sinti. We also expect that there will be a presentation on regional issues within the OSCE area.
In what has become a feature of successive EU Presidencies, EU Defence Ministers will meet in separate session within the framework of the General Affairs and External Council during the morning of 17 November. This will be followed by a joint session with Foreign Ministers in the afternoon, at which Council conclusions will be adopted. The conclusions are expected to encompass both military and civilian aspects of European Security and Defence Policy.
Ministers will review developments on the operational front. This is an area in which there has been considerable progress during the course of 2003, with the successful launch and conduct of three ESDP operations – an EU police mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a military monitoring and stabilisation mission in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and a temporary stabilisation force in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Planning for the EU's second police mission, to be deployed in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia by the end of the year, is currently underway. Specific Council conclusions will be adopted on the participation of non-EU Member States in the latter mission.
The Council will also note progress in the development of the EU's military and civilian capabilities for crisis management and consider the way ahead beyond 2003. On the military side, specific project groups under the European Capabilities Action Plan are working to reduce shortfalls in capabilities with a view to enhancing the EU's operationality for crisis management.
Further to a tasking by the Thessaloniki European Council, work is also being undertaken towards the establishment of an intergovernmental agency in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments. The Council is expected to establish an Agency Implementation Team, which will carry forward work on specific modalities for the establishment of the Agency.
Further issues to be addressed by Ministers will include EU training policy in the field of ESDP, encompassing both military and civilian dimensions. Ministers will also take note of efforts to enhance dialogue with Mediterranean partners on ESDP, as well as ongoing consideration of the role of ESDP in the fight against terrorism. Developments in EU-NATO relations may also be addressed.
It is envisaged that the EU Status of Forces Agreement will be signed by Ministers in the margins of the Council. The proposed agreement has been negotiated as part of the required arrangements to facilitate the development of the operational dimension of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). It is intended to provide a legal basis for the regulation of military and civilian staff on secondment to the European Union Military Staff (EUMS), including the ongoing assignment of personnel from Ireland. It will also apply to headquarters personnel and forces made available to the EU in preparation for, and during the implementation of, humanitarian and crisis management (Petersberg task) operations - both in Brussels and, as applicable, in the territory of other EU member States.
Ministers will be joined by US Secretary of State Colin Powell for a working lunch on 18 November. There is no formal agenda for the lunch, but it is expected the discussion will focus on a range of foreign policy issues. A troika with the US will also take place on Tuesday afternoon. The EU will be represented by the Italian Presidency, the Commission and High Representative, Javier Solana. This meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss a range of issues in the EU-US relationship, including current trade and economic issues.
I am happy to take questions from Members of the Committee.