Uutinen 24.4.2009

EU Council to discuss the Middle East and relations with the United States

Government Communications Unit
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Press Release 121/2009
24 April 2009

The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will meet in Brussels on Monday 27 April. The Council will focus on the Middle East peace process and cooperation with the United States. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Stubb, will represent Finland at the meeting.

The Council will discuss the situation in the Middle East. Topics to be addressed include the first steps of the new Israeli government, negotiations among the Palestinians and the EU’s exercise of influence in the forthcoming EU-Israel Association Council, in particular. Finland is of the opinion that efforts should be made to communicate to the new Israeli government that it should fully commit itself to the promises of the previous government, including the two-state solution. The two-state solution would not be viable without a functioning rule of law, which is why Finland also stresses the importance of efficient EU measures to support the development of the rule of law in the Palestinian territories.

The Council will also provide a follow-up to the meeting between the EU countries and the President of the United States. Finland considers it positive that the United States’ view on Afghanistan is approaching that of the EU. Finland supports measures to strengthen the EU’s role and increase its civilian capabilities in Afghanistan. Finland is also in favour of organising an EU-Pakistan summit to support Pakistan in the fight against terrorism. As regards Iran’s nuclear programme, Finland emphasises the importance of the EU’s unity and cooperation with the USA.

The Council will discuss and adopt conclusions on the situation in Burma/Myanmar. The Ministers are to continue sanctions against the country’s government. However, Finland considers it important that Burma/Myanmar should not be isolated, but new measures, such as dialogue, should be adopted to influence the democratic process in a positive manner. Finland calls for the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to ensure that the opposition has real opportunities to take part in the elections planned for the beginning of 2010.

The Ministers will be presented with progress reports on the European Neighbourhood Policy by the European Commission. This year’s reports also include information on the measures taken by the partner countries to tackle the effects of the economic crisis. Finland emphasises that the east and the south should be given equal attention in the development of the European Neighbourhood Policy. In addition, the Council will discuss Ukraine and Moldova, and preparations for the forthcoming Eastern Partnership summit.

The Council will also discuss EU measures to combat illegal immigration in the Mediterranean. Discussion on this topic has been initiated by recent events in the Mediterranean where a group of illegal immigrants were picked up by a Turkish vessel, Pinar, and then taken in by Italy. Further external relations themes will include Sri Lanka, the Durban Review Conference and the EU Human Rights Policy.

The Council will also discuss the current state of EU membership negotiations with Croatia, which have been hampered by the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia. It is hoped that the dispute be settled. The Czech Presidency will submit information to the Ministers on the employment summit to be held in Prague on Thursday 7 May, and on the Southern Corridor summit on Friday 8 May aimed at strengthening the partnership between the EU and the countries in the Trans-Caspian energy corridor region.

Further information: Markku Lampinen, Counsellor, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 5530 or +358 40 726 6124 and Sanna Ek, Counsellor, EU Affairs, Government Secretariat for EU Affairs, tel. +358 9 1602 2150