Uutinen 19.3.2010

The EU Foreign Affairs Council to discuss the Middle East

 Press Release 87/2010
19 March 2010

The EU Foreign Affairs Council will convene in Brussels on 22 March. The main topics of the meeting are the Middle East Peace Process and preparations for the EU External Action Service. Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb will represent Finland at the meeting.

The foreign ministers will discuss the situation in the Middle East. This is the Council’s first discussion of the Middle East under the leadership of Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who visited the region this week and on Friday takes part in the Quartet’s ministerial meeting being held in Moscow. Finland supports Ashton’s efforts to activate the Quartet and to take a clearer role for the EU in the Middle East. The EU supports efforts to open a discussion link between the partners to the Peace Process and to start rapprochement negotiations through the American negotiator. In this connection, Israel’s recent announcement of its intention to build a settlement in East Jerusalem, which has already been criticized by the High Representative, will also be discussed.

The ministers will continue the discussion on establishment of the EU External Action Service begun at the Gymnich meeting. The aim is provide support for the preparations made under the leadership of the High Representative so that the decision on establishment and the necessary legislative revisions can be made by the end of April. Finland’s goal is a strong External Action Service that is broad in scope and umbrella-like in structure and that supports the EU’s coherent representation under the leadership of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Also on the agenda is recruitment for the External Action Service, where a third of the personnel should come from the Member States. In Finland’s view, recruitment on the basis of merits will also ensure a geographic balance.

Aid operations to Haiti and Chile in the aftermath of the earthquakes there are on the agenda as well. Finland supports coordination of EU assistance that is as sound as possible. The Council is preparing the EU’s participation in the conference on Haitian reconstruction and is expected to approve Conclusions on the matter. Finland has granted 5.4 million euros in humanitarian aid to Haiti, and preparations are underway for participation of at least 10 million euros in the country’s reconstruction. Finland has granted 400,000 euros in humanitarian assistance to Chile.

The Council will discuss the situation in Afghanistan and is expected to approve Conclusions. On the agenda are the start of a new EU ‘two-hatted’ representative in Kabul, implementation of the reforms agreed at the London conference and preparation for the conference in Kabul planned for June. In Finland’s view, the EU should closely follow both preparations for the elections to be held in Afghanistan in September and implementation of the election reforms.

Additional information: Counsellor Markku Lampinen, Unit for European Common Foreign and Security Policy at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 5330 or mobile tel. +358 40 726 6124, and Päivi Pohjanheimo, Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 5332 or mobile tel. + 358 40 511 3786.