Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the Select Committee on European Affairs Part 2
Turning now to the Middle East, Ministers will have an opportunity at the Council to exchange views on recent developments. Ireland favours the convening of an international conference to reach a comprehensive settlement in a reasonable time-frame which deals with all dimensions of the crisis, including relations between Israel and the Arab world. We support Palestinian reform, but insist it is for the
Palestinian people to choose their own leadership. The Quartet should continue to play a useful role and the international community should continue to press for an approach which encompasses all the aspects of the situation in an effort to make progress towards a comprehensive final settlement.
The next item is the Western Balkans, where I expect that Javier Solana will provide us with an up-date on recent developments. An issue of particular interest will be his assessment of the work of the Constitutional Commission which has been established by the National Assemblies of Serbia and Montenegro to draw up a new constitution for the new joint state of Serbia and Montenegro on the basis of the agreement he brokered in March last. Other issues he may report on include the current situation in FYROM and prospects for free and fair elections to be held there on 15 September and the historic joint visit by the Presidents of Serbia and Croatia to Bosnia on 16 July. Important elections are to be held in Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and FYROM this autumn and I expect that Ministers will confirm strong EU support for the OSCE election monitoring missions which are planned for those elections.
We will also focus at this meeting on the issue of the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. There are still a total of 1.2 million refugees or internally displaced people either in the Western Balkans or in other third countries. While progress is being made in establishing the conditions under which they can return, to-date the success of the return programmes has for the most part been of refugees returning to places where they are the majority community. The return of minorities to their homes has been much less successful and the issue is particularly acute in relation to minority Serb return to Kosovo where fewer that 400 Kosovo Serb refugees out of more than 250,000 have returned to their homes since the end of the conflict there in 1999. I expect that Ministers will condemn political obstruction to minority returns, particularly at local level and emphasise the need for the governments in the region to eliminate the obstacles to their return.
The Council will then turn to discuss the ongoing deteriorating political, economic and human rights situation in Zimbabwe and will consider the imposition of further measures against the Government of Zimbabwe. The Council may decide to expand the list of individuals affected by the targeted sanctions imposed by the GAC in February. Members of the Committee may recall that those sanctions impose a travel ban and asset freeze on most Ministers in the Zimbabwean Government. The Council may also decide to grant a dispensation to the Zimbabwean Foreign Minister to attend the forthcoming EU-SADC Ministerial meeting in Copenhagen in November. Despite the disastrous economic policies of the Government of Zimbabwe, the Council is expected to continue the EU's programme of humanitarian assistance to the millions of Zimbabweans who will be affected by the looming food crisis. To ensure that the EU's food aid is not used as a political tool by the Government of Zimbabwe, we will ask the Commission to draw up concrete guidelines for food distribution in Zimbabwe to ensure a strictly
It is not clear at this stage if the steel dispute with the United States will be on Monday’s agenda. In dealing with this matter, Ireland would want to see everything possible done to avoid any deterioration in EU-US trade relations.
The Council will go on to consider preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development which is scheduled to take place in Johannesburg at the end of August and beginning of September. Ireland believes that a successful outcome to the Johannesburg Summit is important for the credibility of the UN in facilitating international dialogue and political agreement on key issues of development, environment and globalisation. We are hopeful too, that the Friends of the Chair process will help to clarify minds and create the climate for a good negotiating atmosphere when we resume in Johannesburg on 26 August. We look forward to hearing the Presidency’s assessment of last week’s meeting in New York. In the coming weeks it will be vital for the EU to continue to work closely with the UN Secretary General, the South African President, Indonesia and the United States in an effort to overcome remaining differences.
The next item on the agenda is Afghanistan. On 2 July, the Government authorised the Minister for Defence to provide seven members of the Defence Forces for service with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul for a period of one year, and for this number to be increased to twelve should the Minister consider it desirable to do so. On 5 July, seven members of the Defence Forces were deployed to ISAF Headquarters in Kabul, where they serve under Turkish command. The Irish contingent consists of three NCOs working respectively in the Office of the Chief of Staff, and the intelligence and engineering sectors, and four officers, working in the personnel area, and the operations, logistics and planning/future operations sectors. A resolution will be moved in Dáil Éireann approving the terms of agreement on Ireland's participation in ISAF.
The last item on the agenda relates to EU follow-on to NATO operation Amber Fox. Approval will be sought for a concept paper which outlines a general scheme for a possible EU take-over in the longer term from the NATO-led Force which currently provides security for EU and OSCE monitors in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The imprimatur for this work has been given by the Barcelona and Seville European Councils and it is wholly consistent with the Petersburg Task functions of ESDP.
The paper situates such an EU-led operation within the context of the overall EU approach in FROM and, in particular, implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Process for the region and of the August 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement. Progress will be contingent, inter alia, upon a breakthrough on the longstanding issue of EU access to certain NATO crisis management assets and capabilities.
The question of any Irish involvement in the EU follow-on mission is a separate one and will require Government and Dáil approval, as well as a UN mandate. The EU-NATO dimension of the issue will be governed at all times by the well-established principles of autonomous decision-making by each organisation and non-discrimination against any Member State.
As I mentioned at the outset, the agenda for the Council will not be finalised until after today’s meeting of Coreper. However, we expect that at today’s meeting, there will be agreement to add two additional items to the agenda.
The Council is likely to consider the situation in Somalia and may adopt conclusions expressing the Union’s support for the regional peace and reconciliation process, including support for efforts aimed at the early establishment of an all-inclusive, broad-based administration throughout Somalia. Once an all-inclusive, broad-based administration is established to succeed the current transitional government, the European Union will undertake to provide financial and technical support to the new administration provided it meets basic criteria in terms of security, democracy, good governance, the fight against terrorism, human rights protection and the promotion of good relations with neighbouring countries. The Council is expected to reaffirm the Union’s attachment to the “peace dividend approach” in Somalia, whereby areas and regions where basic standards of governance and security are ensured will benefit from EU cooperation.
The Council is also expected to consider the food crisis in southern Africa. We would expect the discussion in the Council to reflect concern that the political actions of some states in the Southern African region have aggravated the already alarming humanitarian situation. We will urge the countries of the region to ensure that their policies contribute to the resolution of the humanitarian crisis rather than aggravating it. We welcome this discussion as we have done much to highlight the looming crisis at European level and in our national capacity have already provided €5.2 million to respond to the food shortages.
That Mr. Chairman, concludes the review of the items coming up at next week’s Council meeting. As you can see the agenda is significant and wide ranging. I look forward to hearing the views of the Committee on these issues.Top