Uutinen 23.10.2009

EU Council focusing on the October European Council and the situation in Afghanistan

Government Communications Unit
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Press Release 312/2009
23 October 2009

The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will meet on 26 and 27 October in Luxembourg. The main themes of the Council are preparations for the European Council and the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb and Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors will represent Finland at the meeting.

The Council is to prepare the European Council meeting to be organised on 29 and 30 October in Brussels. The European Council is to focus on preparations for the Copenhagen Climate Summit, implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and the economic and financial situation. In addition to the European Council preparations, the General Affairs and External Relations Council will discuss the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region promoting cooperation in the area.

The Council’s agenda will include the presidential elections held in Afghanistan and the strengthening of EU action in Afghanistan, Pakistan and at regional level. The Council is to adopt an action plan aiming to improve coordination between the European Commission and the Member States in certain fields of cooperation. A key aim is to increase local ownership in EU action in Afghanistan. Finland stresses the importance of strengthening the EU’s police mission EUPOL in Afghanistan and compiling a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy in Pakistan. Finland aims at a rapid implementation of the EU action plan and an effective follow-up.

The Middle East peace process will also be on the agenda. The Ministers will discuss the EU’s support to American efforts to persuade Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace negotiations. The Council will consider ways of strengthening the Palestinians’ fading faith in the peace process. With this regard, Finland stresses the importance of EU coherency in relation to the Israeli settlement policy. To advance the peace process, Finland considers it important that the parties investigate into the human rights violations committed in Gaza in the context of military operations reported by the Goldstone Commission of the UN Human Rights Council.

Topics to be discussed over dinner on Monday include the situation in Iran and the dispute over the country’s nuclear programme. Negotiations have been held during the week and, on Sunday, the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will visit the uranium enrichment plant being build near the city of Qom. Finland supports pursuing the ’double-track policy’ which includes imposing sanctions on Iran while seeking settlement to the situation. Finland supports the tightening of UN sanctions if the negotiations do not deliver results.

The Ministers are also expected to discuss the EU- and US-led negotiations held with the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim of the negotiations is to break Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political stalemate. Finland supports efforts towards a solution which would enable the close of the Office of the High Representative and the country’s rapprochement with the EU.

The Council will discuss and adopt conclusions on the humanitarian situation, human rights and the political process in Sri Lanka. Finland pays particular attention to the situation of the most vulnerable population groups, especially children in refugee camps. The Council will adopt conclusions also on Guinea, the Sahel in Africa, the Great Lakes area in Africa, Uzbekistan and Yemen and the human rights dialogue with Indonesia.

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