My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary represented the UK at the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers—Gymnich—on 5-6 March in Cordoba, Spain.
The agenda items covered were as follows:
High Representative Ashton opened by saying the EU’s relationship with the strategic powers was one of her top priorities. The transatlantic relationship remained central, but we also needed close engagement with countries like China, Brazil, India, South Africa and Russia. If the EU wanted to be relevant, we needed a direct relationship with these key players.
The Presidency—Moratinos—led a wide-ranging discussion of the EU’s approach to the emerging powers following the changes to its structures brought about by the Lisbon treaty. Most Ministers agreed that we needed to make better use of summits and other meetings with these countries and in general take a more strategic and medium-term view of our relations, including now that the High Representative had a five-year term in which to work.
External Action Service
Discussion of the EAS spanned both days. The High Representative set out her thoughts and vision for the EAS including that it should bring coherence to all the EU’s external activities. The Foreign Secretary and other Ministers expressed their support for the High Representative and the need for a strong and effective EAS as a key tool to help deliver Europe’s priorities.
Middle East Peace Process
The presidency led a short discussion on the middle east peace process, focusing on how to take forward the December 2009 Council conclusions. The High Representative set out her plans to visit the region.
The three Ministers of the candidate countries—The Former Yogoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia and Turkey—joined EU Foreign Ministers for a discussion.
The High Representative and Commissioner Füle stressed the importance of the region for the EU. The future of the region lay within Europe, and Europe would be judged by the effectiveness of its support to its neighbourhood. On visas, Commissioner Füle said the Commission would make recommendations in respect of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania following recent work.