Today in Brussels the European Union foreign ministers discussed preparations for the summit with Russia. The situations in Belarus, Burma, Sudan, and the Middle East were also addressed.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that at the European Union-Russia summit taking place on 7 December there are plans to discuss development in the four largest sectors: the global economic environment; climate change; European Union-Russia relations, including Russia joining the WTO, negotiations for a new EU-Russia agreement, the energy sector, visa-free travel, and frozen conflicts; and international topics like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East.
Paet said that the EU-Russia visa dialogue should continue but that all the conditions must be fulfilled before implementing visa freedom. “It is also important for the European Union to emphasise respect for Georgia’s territorial integrity and encourage Russia to do more to resolve the Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts,” said Paet. “Estonia also feels it is important for Russia to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO),” added the foreign minister.
The minister noted that it is important to do away with obstacles in crossing the European Union-Russia border. “Queues that stretch on for hours absolutely do not fit into the context of the European Union and Russia’s increasingly close co-operation,” he said.
In talking about developments in Belarus, Paet clarified that progress in Belarus and EU-relations depends on a marked development in rule of law and democratic reforms. “The European Union must be ready to move forward with concluding visa facilitation and a readmission agreement, but we also need to see further concrete steps from the Belarusian side,” Paet asserted.
In conjunction with recent events in Burma, Estonia feels it is regrettable that the elections in Burma were neither free nor democratic. “In order to achieve stability and development in Burma, international reconciliation and the initiation of the democratic process are essential. Releasing all political prisoners would provide an opportunity to begin a true transition to democracy,” said the foreign minister. Paet said that Estonia considers it important that Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi can work freely, his security protected, and that all other political prisoners are released as well.
The council also discussed the situation in Sudan in relation to the independence referendum to be held in Southern Sudan on 9 January 2011. The Estonian foreign minister stated that the consistent implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is urgently needed to ensure peace in Sudan. “This is why it is important for peace to be preserved and for the independence referendum in Southern Sudan to take place,” said Paet.
Currently the reigning political situation in Sudan is very delicate and, according to UN data, the humanitarian situation in the country has not improved recently either. Sudan’s central government is not interested in carrying out the referendum, as the outcome is highly likely to be the creation of a new country—Southern Sudan—and most of Sudan’s old fields would be within its borders.
During the General Affairs Council, while looking back on the previous European Council and planning ahead for December’s Council, the member states confirmed that a crisis management mechanism for the euro zone is necessary. Also under discussion was the European Union’s initiative to improve its ability to respond to disasters, ensuring good co-ordination among the EU and its member states so that the correct aid would reach the correct people as quickly as possible.
The Commission introduced its working scheme for the year 2011, which focuses on economic growth. “For example, the plan includes the completion of financial services reform and the strengthening of the EU internal market. In relation to the internal market, Estonia believes the essential factors are the digital agenda, including the advancement of digital signatures across the entire EU and the creation of a common European contract law support framework,” Paet noted.
European Union Foreign Ministers Prepare for EU-Russia Summit