Address by Tom Kitt to the Joint Committee on European Affairs, General Affairs and External Relations Council (2)
Ireland and our EU partners are strongly committed to progress in the continuing negotiations on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. It is the EU's stated view that progress in economic and political relations with Iran should be evaluated in parallel. Iran is resisting the conclusion of agreements on the political sphere, especially on human rights, non-proliferation, terrorism and the Middle East Peace Process. At its meeting on 21 July 2003, the Council expressed serious concern over developments in Iran in relation to these issues and decided to review future steps in the co-operation between the EU and Iran in September. The forthcoming Council will consider this.
Middle East Peace Process
The Middle East Peace Process will be discussed by Ministers over lunch during the Council. Frankly, the situation on the ground is now as grave as it has been at any time this year. There has been an almost complete breakdown in communications between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships. The ceasefire announced on 29 June by Palestinian militant groups has collapsed. There has been a resurgence in both terrorist attacks against Israeli targets and targeted assassinations of leaders of Palestinian militant groups by the Israeli Defence Forces.
The discussions at the Council will be informed by the contacts which Ministers are having during the General Assembly session taking place in New York this week. Minister Brian Cowen is meeting his counterparts from Israel and Egypt. He is also taking the opportunity to meet other major players in the peace process both bilaterally and as a member of the European Union Troika. A meeting of the Quartet at Ministerial level is also scheduled. This should give a clearer picture of prospects for a renewal of the Roadmap for a comprehensive settlement. The question of the Middle East will, as always, be one of the major items considered by the General Assembly during the current session. Last Friday, 19 September, the Assembly, meeting in Emergency Special Session, passed a Resolution demanding that Israel cease any threats to the safety of the Palestinian President, reiterating the support of the international community for the work of the Quartet and demanding that the two sides fully implement their obligations under the Roadmap. This followed the vetoing of a very similar Resolution in the Security Council by the United States.
The Council is also expected to consider EU-Canada relations. The EU and Canada enjoy a close and productive working relationship based on shared values including respect for human rights, democracy, free trade among nations and a firm attachment to the UN and the multilateral system. The next EU-Canada Summit, scheduled to take place in Ottawa in December, will review the overall EU-Canada relationship. This comprehensive review process was initiated at the EU-Canada Summit in December 2002 and is set to be concluded at the Ottawa Summit this year. Ministers are expected to adopt conclusions, which will set out the EU approach to this review ahead of an EU-Canada meeting at Foreign Ministerial level on 6 October. An EU-Canada summit is also scheduled to take place under the Irish Presidency.
It is not yet clear if the EU-Ukraine Summit in Yalta on 7 October will be discussed by Ministers at the Council as preparations for the summit may be agreed in advance at COREPER. However, it is clear that the summit will be an important meeting, not least because there is only one EU-Ukraine summit every year. The October meeting will set out the direction of EU-Ukraine policies through the period of the Irish Presidency.
In addition to discussion of a number of important issues in the area of economic cooperation, the Union will be stressing to Ukraine the importance of the fight against organized crime and the need to conclude negotiations on a readmission agreement. We will also wish to reach an understanding with Ukraine on the creation of an ‘action plan' under the ‘Wider Europe' initiative as well as to encourage Ukraine to make significant progress on the path to reform. This would include progress where media freedoms are concerned. 16th September last marked the third anniversary of the murder of the journalist Georgy Gongadze. I believe it is especially important that our interest in media freedom in Ukraine should be strongly registered at the Yalta meeting.
The European Security and Defence Policy agenda item will be focused on modalities for a proposed EU Police Mission in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The EU Police Mission in FYROM will be the second civilian operation under ESDP, the first being the EU Police Mission currently underway in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The mission will be unarmed and advisory in nature. Its overall aims will be to help ensure fair and multi-ethnic policing and to contribute to a stable and secure environment in FYROM. The mission is deploying at the request of the FYROM authorities. Specific tasks will include support for the consolidation of law and order, for the reform of the Ministry of the Interior and for the creation of a border police force. The Police Mission is expected to commence on 15 December, the date on which Operation Concordia, the current EU military operation in FYROM, is due to terminate.
Ireland fully supports the proposed EU Police Mission as part of a comprehensive EU approach to promoting security and stability in FYROM. The mission is a good example of ESDP being put to useful practical effect. Irish participation in the force remains under consideration by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda authorities. A Garda officer is expected to participate in the mission Planning Team, where he will contribute to drawing up the Operation Plan and developing the technical instruments necessary to execute the mission.
May I also draw your attention to the fact that today in New York a joint declaration will be signed by the UN Secretary General and the EU Presidency, which recognises the progress achieved in cooperation between the EU and UN in crisis management and commits both organisations to further practical steps for a strengthened partnership. The declaration provides for the establishment of a joint consultative mechanism at working level, which will examine means of enhancing mutual coordination and compatibility in the areas of planning, training, communication and best practices.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
The EU initiative on Weapons of Mass Destruction is an important step in demonstrating the high priority which the EU affords to meeting the serious challenges posed by the proliferation of Weapons of such weapons. The Basic Principles document gives proper recognition to the importance of disarmament and disarmament instruments in the context of non-proliferation efforts. As it makes clear, disarmament measures can lead to a virtuous circle just as weapons programmes can lead to an arms race. Disarmament and non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing and it is appropriate that the EU reaffirms this principle as well as its commitment to multilateralism.
We hope that the work underway will provide us with a rich and comprehensive basis for the elaboration of a coherent EU strategy which will enable us to better address a growing threat to international peace and security.
Ministers will also consider the Ministerial Meeting of the Doha Development Round, which I attended in Cancun Mexico on 10-14 September, together with Minister Joe Walsh and Minister of State Michael Ahern. You will be aware that the meeting failed to reach agreement on a framework for the continuation of negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda. It concluded instead with a Ministerial Declaration that instructed officials to continue work on the outstanding issues and to convene a meeting in Geneva on 15 December “to take the action necessary to enable us to move towards a successful and timely conclusion to the negotiations.”
The failure to reach agreement at Cancun is, in my view, very regrettable. We in Ireland believe firmly in a multilateral, rules-based trading system and we will continue to work with our EU partners to support that and achieve a positive outcome to the Doha Round of negotiations. Ireland has benefited greatly from a liberalised global trade regime and we believe that developing countries would also stand to gain from further trade liberalisation and tariff reduction. In particular, we believe the interests of the least developed countries have not been served by this outcome, as they would have been substantial beneficiaries of any improved market access for agricultural goods, as well as reductions in agricultural subsidies by for example the EU and the US.
On the agenda item ‘Funding for the Special Court of Sierra Leone', the UK will appeal to Member States to provide additional voluntary funding for the work of the Court in bringing to justice those most responsible for human rights atrocities in Sierra Leone since 1996. There is concern that progress by the Court is being threatened due to a shortfall in voluntary contributions of $15 million for this year. Ireland fully supports the appeal by the UK. We see the work of the Court as being a vital part of the healing process in Sierra Leone and an important challenge to the culture of impunity which exists in conflict situations in Africa. Ireland has made a voluntary contribution of $500,000 to the Special Court and we will urge other Member States to also make contributions.
I am happy to take questions from Members of the Committee on any of the agenda items due for discussion at the forthcoming Council.