Uutinen 22.10.2010

The EU Foreign Affairs Council to discuss the Middle East

Press Release 313/2010
22 October, 2010

The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union will meet in Luxembourg on 25 October. One of the main topical issues for debate is the Middle East peace process. Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb will represent Finland at the meeting.

The Foreign Ministers will discuss the situation in the Middle East. The intention is to review the situation with regard to the direct talks between Israel and Palestine, which began in September. Partial ending of Israel’s freeze on settlement building at the end of September and Israel’s failure to continue the freeze despite international appeals have cast a shadow over the negotiations. At the Palestinians’ request, the Arab League met in early October to discuss the matter and decided to give the negotiations another month’s time. Foreign Minister Stubb intends to give his colleagues his assessment concerning the peace process and the situation in Gaza on the basis of the visit he made to the Middle East a week ago.

The topics of discussion at the working lunch are the key messages for the EU–USA Summit and the EU–Ukraine Summit. In Finland’s view, intensive cooperation between the EU and the United States is needed on all strategically important issues, such as global security, economic development, climate negotiations and development policy. As to Ukraine, Finland emphasizes free movement and the economy. Finland’s goal is that the action plan for Ukraine, aiming at visa-free movement, would be approved at the 2010 Summit and that the Association Agreement would be signed in 2011. Also to be discussed is the EU’s representation in the Union for the Mediterranean, which is scheduled to hold a Summit in November.

During the working lunch, the Council will evaluate relations between the EU and Cuba and the preconditions for their development. Finland considers the release of political prisoners and the plans for economic reforms to be positive developments. Cuba should be encouraged to continue the process for releasing all political prisoners.

Over lunch the Foreign Ministers will also discuss the current situation in Georgia. In Finland’s view, in rapprochement between Georgia and the EU, the launching of negotiations on an Association Agreement and the entry into force of agreements on visa facilitation and readmission are important steps. The EU’s support is needed for the talks in Geneva. Russia’s announcement that it will withdraw from the disputed checkpoint in Perev is an encouraging signal. The EU should encourage Georgia and Russia to hold dialogue, as progress in resolving the Georgia conflict can only take place if all parties are committed to the process.

The Foreign Ministers will discuss development of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). This discussion is a continuation of the Conclusions approved by the Council in July. The position of Finland is that neighbourhood policy should be strengthened and that the EU should support partner countries in rapprochement with the EU, within the frame of Association Agreements, mobility and free trade. In Finland’s view, the EU should avoid confrontation between Eastern and Southern partner countries, emphasizing that both dimensions are needed.

In addition, the Council will debate security and development in the Sahel region and the EU’s role in stabilizing the region. Finland supports the proposal for a comprehensive EU strategy combining diplomacy, prevention of crime, crisis prevention and development cooperation in a diversified manner. Finland also considers that the EU should support the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the region.

Further, the work to clarify the EU’s position in the UN will also be discussed. Moreover, the Council is expected to endorse Conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Moldova, Uzbekistan and the EU’s Eastern Partnership.

Additional information: Counsellor Lasse Keisalo, Ministry for Foreign Affairs Unit for European Common Foreign and Security Policy, tel. +358 9 1605 5330 or mobile tel. +358 40 505 2046, and Päivi Pohjanheimo, Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 5332 or mobile tel. +358 40 511 3786