Ministers prepared for the March meeting of the European Council
Press release 83/2008
10 March, 2008
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Government Communications Unit
Preparations for the March meeting of the European Council was the key topic on the agenda of the EU’s General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) meeting held on Monday, 10 March in Brussels. Finland was represented at the meeting by Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen and Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors.
The GAERC meeting reviewed the draft conclusions to be discussed at the European Council meeting on 13 and 14 March. Topics on the agenda for the spring meeting of the European Council include climate and energy policy and the Lisbon Strategy on growth and employment for the coming three-year cycle.
Finland considers the current priorities of the Lisbon Strategy to be well founded. In her speech Minister Thors stressed the importance of implementing the reforms agreed on earlier, as well as the importance of innovations, research and know-how.
With regard to climate and energy policy, Minister Thors emphasised the necessity of reaching a global and comprehensive climate treaty. Discussion of the climate and energy package should be concluded, at the latest, at the start of the year. In revising the emissions trading system included in the package, the preconditions for energy-intensive industry operating in international competition must be ensured.
During the foreign ministers’ lunch, discussion focused on the situation in the Western Balkans following Kosovo’s declaration of independence. Minister Kanerva stressed that Kosovo is a major, and growing, issue to the EU. There was also discussion of the internal political situation in Serbia.
The foreign ministers also discussed the situation in Georgia. Minister Kanerva emphasised that a comprehensive approach should be adopted towards the countries of the region. Attention should be paid not only to Georgia but also to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Other external relations questions discussed were Iran, the Middle East and Zimbabwe in the light of the elections to be held at the end of March.
The trade ministers discussed the state of the World Trade Organization negotiations. The central negotiation partners, despite the difficulties, remain committed to concluding the negotiations this year. Especially with regard to agricultural issues and the access of industrial products to markets, the crucial questions will be approached during spring.
According to Minister Väyrynen, the various fields of negotiation are not in balance at the moment. A balanced solution encompassing all fields of negotiation should be found during spring. Emerging economies and the United States must do their own share so that the negotiations can be brought to a close. Minister Väyrynen stressed the need, in particular, to take the position of the least developed nations into account.
Additional information: Veera Parko, Adviser, EU Affairs, Government Secretariat for EU Affairs, tel. +358 9 1602 2150; Director General Pilvi-Sisko Vierros, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 5032; Director General Jorma Korhonen, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 5042