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EU: Foreign Ministers Informal Meeting

Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 12 November 2008

My right honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Caroline Flint) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (David Miliband) represented the UK at the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers (Gymnich) in Marseille, France, on 3 November 2008.

The agenda was as follows:

Transatlantic relations

The main purpose of the meeting was to agree priorities for EU-US dialogue, following EU Foreign Ministers’ discussion at their informal meeting on 5 and 6 September. Ministers worked towards agreement of a common platform for member states when engaging with the US, based on a French presidency paper that could be shared with the incoming US Administration.

As a first priority, EU Foreign Ministers discussed reform of international institutions, considering the need for the United States and Europe to work together to enhance the effectiveness of multilateral institutions in managing crises and global imbalances, fully involving the major emerging countries.

They identified the situation in the Middle East as a priority for EU-US dialogue, in order to encourage progress on the Middle East peace process (MEPP), Iraq, relations with Syria and Lebanon, and Iran, which remained a major source of concern. High Representative Solana underlined the importance of a comprehensive regional approach to the MEPP. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary stressed the need for tougher sanctions on Iran.

Ministers also considered the situation in Afghanistan, where the United States and European countries are working alongside the Afghans for peace and the reconstruction of their country. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary argued that the EU needed to set out more clearly what it could offer Afghanistan alongside current and future US efforts, rather than simply asking the US to take more action. He suggested that it should look at doing more on both Afghanistan and Pakistan, including meeting our commitments to the EU police mission (EUPOL); holding an EU-Pakistan summit and improving bilateral trade; and enhancing EU/NATO relations more generally.

The final theme of the common platform was relations with Russia. Ministers agreed that a concerted approach was needed, based on dialogue and compliance with international rules.

AOB: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and the French presidency briefed Ministers on their joint visit to the DRC on 1 November. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner gave an update on humanitarian aid. Ministers decided to wait for the UN Secretary-General’s special representative to the DRC to report to the UN Security Council before deciding whether to send an EU military mission with a humanitarian mandate in support of UN peacekeepers.