Uutinen 11.9.2009

EU Council to discuss Afghanistan and Iran

Government Communications Unit
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Press Release 257/2009
11 September 2009

The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will meet in Brussels on 14 and 15 September with Afghanistan and Iran as its central themes. Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb and Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors will represent Finland at the meeting.

In order to enhance the Council’s effectiveness, general affairs and external relations will be discussed at two separate sessions on two different days on the initiative of the Swedish EU Presidency.

The Council will start preparations for the forthcoming European Council in October. Main themes of the summit will include institutional issues with reference to the Lisbon Treaty and its entry into force, the tight economic situation and the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen in December. Further topics to be addressed include the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, and illegal immigration.

The Ministers will discuss the situation in Afghanistan with a special focus on the presidential elections held in August. Finland considers it important that the electoral fraud allegations be investigated, and is in favour of continuing the EU election observation mission should a second round of elections be organised. As far as the security situation is concerned, Finland emphasises the importance of taking steps to develop Afghanistan’s own security forces, army and police. In Finland’s view, the EU Police mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL) should be strengthened and developed as a rule-of-law mission. Finland stresses the importance of issues relating to equality in the preparation of the EU’s new Afghanistan strategy.

Topics to be discussed over dinner include the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme and the country’s human rights. As for the nuclear programme dispute, Finland supports pursuing the ’double-track policy’ which includes imposing sanctions on Iran while seeking settlement to the situation. In the event that Iran refuses the proposed negotiating package, Finland supports primarily the tightening of UN sanctions. According to Finland, the EU should continue to make an effort to influence Iran on human rights issues, particularly in the aftermath of the riots that broke out in the summer.

The Council is to discuss the achievement of EU convergence objectives by the South Caucasian countries. In terms of strengthening cooperation, Finland considers it important that the countries be treated equally, yet on a country-specific basis. As regards Association Agreement negotiations to be conducted with Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Finland hopes that decisions within the EU be reached during the autumn concerning the negotiating mandates. Essentially, Free Trade Agreements should be incorporated in the Association Agreements. As far as visa facilitation issues are concerned, Finland emphasises that the countries should commit themselves to intensified efforts to combat corruption, organised crime and illegal immigration.

At its meeting, the Council will submit conclusions on the political crisis in Honduras and on the situation in Sudan. The aim is to press those involved in the coup in Honduras to restore constitutional order and to respect human rights. The Council will address the peace process in Sudan and the preparations and electoral observation issues concerning the forthcoming elections of spring 2010.

Further information: Jonna Laurmaa, Counsellor, EU Affairs, Government Secretariat for EU Affairs, tel. +358 9 1602 2191 and Markku Lampinen, Counsellor, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 5530 or +358 40 726 6124, and Sanna Ek, Adviser, EU Affairs, Government Secretariat for EU Affairs, tel. +358 9 1602 2150