Address by Tom Kitt to the Joint Committee on European Affairs, General Affairs and External Relations Council 24 September 2003 (1)
Check against Delivery
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Joint Committee, may I begin by saying that I am very pleased to have the opportunity to stand in today for the Minister for Foreign Affairs who, as you know, is attending the General Assembly of the UN in New York, and to speak to you about the agenda for the General Affairs and External Relations Council which takes place next Monday. I propose to begin with some introductory remarks on the agenda of the General Affairs session and then turn to the session on External Relations.
At the Council, Ministers will take the formal decision to launch the Intergovernmental Conference on 4 October, as is required by Article 48 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community. It is not anticipated that there will be substantive discussion of IGC issues, which will after all be discussed at the end of the week by Heads of State or Government and by Foreign Ministers.
As the Minister made clear here earlier this month, Ireland is strongly supportive of the Italian Presidency and of its approach to the IGC, while standing ready to carry forward the work if need be. Moreover, we remain broadly happy with the outcome of the Convention and are not seeking or expecting fundamental revision. That said, the IGC cannot be a rubber stamp and we, like others, have a small number of key concerns which we will be pressing. We will also play a constructive role in debate generally, including on the items which the Presidency has indicated it wishes to begin with - the question of a single Legislative Council, and how the Presidency of Council formations should be organised.
Preparation of European Council, 16-17 October 2003
In accordance with the Seville European Council Conclusions, the General Affairs and External Relations Council, acting on a presidency proposal, shall draw up an annotated draft agenda at least four weeks before the meeting of the European Council. The European Council is due to meet in Brussels on 16-17 October 2003 and is expected to consider the following issues: relaunching growth and competitiveness of the European economy; managing migratory flows in the interest of security and freedom; and external relations issues. Heads of State and Government will also consider the IGC.
These issues are due to be elaborated upon in the course of the coming weeks, in advance of the European Council itself. Ministers will consider the annotated draft agenda of the European Council at their meeting on 29-30 September 2003 and again at the meeting of the Council on 13-14 October 2003.
Turning now to the External Relations agenda.
The Council will review recent developments in the Western Balkans, focusing in particular this month on the situation in Kosovo. Considerable progress has been made under Security Council Resolution 1244 in the transfer of powers to the democratically-elected Provisional Institutions of Self Government in Kosovo. However, it is clear that further work is needed across a range of issues to create the conditions for a multiethnic, democratic and stable Kosovo. There is broad agreement that it would be premature at this point to open up the question of the final status of Kosovo. However, it is clear to all sides that the eventual resolution of this question, and the guarantee for the future of all the people of Kosovo, will be provided in the context of the EU perspective of the Western Balkans region. This was confirmed by the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Thessaloniki in June, which was attended by democratically-elected representatives of the ethnic Albanian and ethnic Serb communities, as part of the UNMIK delegation.
The former Prime Minister of Finland, Mr. Harri Holkeri has just taken up the position of new Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Kosovo, and head of UNMIK. I know that Harri Holkeri will bring to this demanding job the qualities of determination and patience which served us all so well in his role as Co-Chairman of the Multi-Party Talks leading the Good Friday Agreement. His immediate priority is the launching as soon as possible of a direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on practical issues of mutual concern. Mr. Holkeri is consulting widely on the arrangements for the direct dialogue, which involve difficult and complex issues. I would hope that the details can be agreed in the very near future. The EU will play an important role supporting and facilitating this process, which is aimed at achieving practical results and building much-needed confidence between the two sides.
Foreign Ministers will discuss the situation in Iraq at the Council. The primary focus of those discussions will be on developments at the UN and we will maintain our position of support for a central UN role. While negotiations in New York will be of primary interest, we believe it is important that the EU should agree on a united position in support of the UN role in Iraq. Commissioner Patten is also expected to report on his visit to Iraq.
A major donor conference is being convened in Madrid for 24 October. The purpose of this conference is to discuss the reconstruction needs of Iraq and to pledge funding towards the reconstruction costs. I expect to be present at that conference. A decision regarding Irish funding for reconstruction in Iraq has not yet been taken. Funding requests for recovery/reconstruction will be carefully examined in the light of developments within Iraq, the role of the UN and the use of oil revenues.
I strongly condemn the further attack on the UN in Baghdad. Such attacks can serve no purpose other than to delay the time when the Iraqi people can go about their lives in peace and security. The international community will not be deterred from playing its role in the political and physical reconstruction of Iraq. This attack highlights once again the importance of the international community working together in Iraq.
Hence the Government welcomes the decision of President Bush to return to the Security Council to seek the assistance of the UN in Iraq. It has always been our view that a central role for the UN in the reconstruction of Iraq is essential. We look to the Security Council to ensure that the United Nations is seen to maintain its proper role as acting on behalf of the entire international community. This is essential in relation both to the UN's ability to contribute to defusing the situation in Iraq and to the UN's future credibility.
Efforts continue in the Security Council to agree a Resolution. The draft Resolution that has been put forward by the US Administration contains a number of useful points, but it needs to go further in providing a UN role and in giving an impetus to the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.
Foreign Ministers will consider recent developments in Iran at the Council. There are a number of issues that have arisen in recent months which are a cause of concern for us and our EU partners.
We remain deeply disturbed at the failure to see any significant progress in the human rights situation in Iran. We are further disappointed with the lack of progress in the EU-Iran dialogue on human rights. In the absence of adequate progress in Iran, we have not ruled out the possibility that we would support other measures, such as a Resolution at the General Assembly on the human rights situation in Iran. We believe the reality on the ground should be reflected at the UN.
We continue to be concerned about the situation of minorities in Iran, in particular women and the treatment of the Baha'i. We wish to see greater institutional and legal safeguards for their protection, in particular an end to the harsh penalties imposed on the Baha'i. The rights of the Baha'i, including access to education and right of assembly, must be respected. We also want a moratorium on the death penalty and amputations. Our hope is that our continuing dialogue will lead to a genuine and sustained change in the human rights situation in Iran.
Ireland considers that there are a number of questions still outstanding in relation to the Iranian nuclear programme, which gives cause for serious concern. We would call on Iran to provide continued and accelerated cooperation and full transparency on all aspects of its nuclear programme. We are also concerned that this issue could seriously affect Iran's international relations, something we do not wish to see happen. Ireland wishes, instead, to see Iran engaged in a constructive developing relationship with the rest of the world. We also wish to see a reduction of tensions in the region.