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Press Releases, 2/20/2009

EU Council to discuss situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East peace process

Government Communications Unit
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Press release 53/2009
20 February 2009

The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will meet in Brussels on 23 and 24 February. Main themes of the meeting include the situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process and the preparations for the March European Council. Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb and Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors will represent Finland at the meeting.

The Council will start making preparations for the European Council meeting taking place in Brussels on 19 and 20 March. The Chairperson will submit a draft agenda for the European Council, setting out the following main items expected to be addressed: economic and financial situation, energy security, climate change and Eastern Partnership. In addition, the General Affairs Council will discuss the European Economic Recovery Plan.

The Foreign Ministers will examine the EU’s Afghanistan policy with a focus on reinforcing political commitment and the EUPOL civilian crisis management mission along with providing support for the elections to be held in August. Afghanistan holds increasingly high expectations for the European Union. Finland will double its participation in the EUPOL mission. In order to reach a sustainable political agreement, the political process needs to be set in motion, thus strengthening the development of democracy. Increased cooperation at the regional level and the promotion of stability are essential for the stabilisation of Afghanistan.

The Ministers will discuss the current situation in the Middle East, especially the post-conflict situation in Gaza after the Israeli elections, with a focus on preparing for the Gaza Rebuilding Conference on 2 March in Sharm el Sheikh, where Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb will represent Finland. Finland is prepared to participate in EU border control activities and to expand them on the border with Gaza. In the same context, Finland considers it important that humanitarian law be respected and national reconciliation among the Palestinians be achieved to secure the continuation of the peace process.

Other topics to be discussed include Eastern Partnership, which is part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, and the situation in Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

Further information: Sanna Ek, Adviser, EU Affairs, Government Secretariat for EU Affairs, tel. +358 9 1602 2150 and Markku Lampinen, Counsellor, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 5530 or +358 40 726 6124

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Updated 2/20/2009

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