Luxembourg, 21 October 2013
EU foreign ministers discuss Eastern Partnership, Southern Neighbourhood and Burma
At the meeting in Luxembourg 21 October, the EU foreign ministers discussed the Eastern Partnership, Southern Neighbourhood (Egypt, Syria, Libya) and Burma/Myanmar.
The ministers of EU 28 talked about cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries ahead of the summit scheduled for late November in Vilnius. The EU wants to sign a comprehensive trade and cooperation agreement with Ukraine, the precondition for that being that Kiev implement reforms, notably in judiciary, in order to eliminate the “selective approach to justice”, whose most notable victim was former prime minister Julija Timošenko, and align election rules with the European standards. The Vilnius summit should initial similar agreements with Georgia and Moldova. Minister Pusić told the press the EU was mindful of a possible reaction by Russia, which does not view the EU spreading its influence along its border. “There are efficient mechanisms Russia can use against those countries. Russia is Ukraine’s foreign trade partner number three, which largely depends on Russia’s energy supply, as well as Moldova, which is completely dependent on Russia. A large number of their citizens work in Russia, and there is the danger of stopping the trade of agricultural products. Signing these agreements should have a positive effect, which includes visa regime liberalization, supply and price of energy,” Pusić said. To conclude, Pusić added that the Eastern Partnership countries could serve as a link between the EU and Russia, although right now they are rivals so the question is how politically to turn this into a partnership relation.
The discussion about the Eastern Partnership revolved around the situation in Egypt, Syria and Libya. The ministers debated on sending an EU monitoring mission to Egypt to monitor the referendum on constitutional changes. “High Representative Catherine Ashton established cooperation with all of the sides in Egypt, which is an excellent position for communication and following the turn of events in that country,” said Pusić.
In regard to Syria, the EU supports the call by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for holding Geneva II by end-November. The ministers reiterated the importance of forming a transitional government in Syria with full executive authority. The warring parties should define the steps of political transition as a peace conference.
Pusić underlined it was crucial first to stop the war and violence in Syria and then reach a political solution to the conflict. She said the draft of Syria declaration was finished and that Lakhdar Brahimi was instrumental in finding a solution for that country.
The ministers also talked about the latest events in Libya, notably the tragic drowning of immigrants near the Italian island of Lampedusa. “The problem should be solved at its source, through various programs in Libya itself, so that fewer people would leave the country,” Pusić said.
Another of the Foreign Affairs Council’s topics was Burma/Myanmar, in light of the preparations for the EU-Burma/Myanmar Task Force meeting scheduled for 13-15 November.
Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a working lunch invited the EU to keep pressuring the Burmese authorities in order to launch democratic reforms. She underlined the importance of compelling the Burmese government to change the constitution before the 2015 elections. The constitution allows a quarter of parliament seats for military forces members. It also forbids voting for anyone with foreigners in their immediate family. That provision was passed in order to directly prevent Aung San Suu Kyi from running in the elections.
Pusić said that with her persistence, Aung San Suu Kyi forced the military junta in Burma into a gradual change. “Her message is that the constitution, which is completely undemocratic, should be changed,” Pusić said, adding that Croatia was interested in Burma as it is a large country that could benefit from Croatia’s transition experiences, has a large potential for development and could be an interesting economic partner in the future. Before that, Croatia has a project to help the development of civil society in Burma.
Pusić concluded by saying that the Council adopted the conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina and would discuss this topic at its next meeting.