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Press Releases, 5/19/2009

The EU wants clarity and stability in Sri Lanka

Press release 139/2009
18 May, 2009

Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb at the EU Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brussels 18 May. Photo: Council of the European Union.The chaotic situation in Sri Lanka rose to the forefront of discussion at the EU Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brussels. According to Foreign Minister Stubb, “the EU has had to jump onto a moving train,” since news from the crisis area was arriving throughout the day. The foreign minister considers the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka to be catastrophic and, along with the rest of the EU, demands that the Government of Sri Lanka moves quickly towards a peaceful political solution.

The EU foreign ministers have followed the situation in Sri Lanka with concern for a long time; now that the entire country has come under the control of government troops it might be possible to work out a lasting peaceful solution. However, evaluation of the situation is made difficult, among other things, by the fact that information received from Sri Lanka is contradictory and unreliable. “The situation and events in Sri Lanka must now be investigated neutrally,” Foreign Minister Stubb said. The EU also wants to see charges pressed against anyone who has committed war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Above all, the EU strives to ensure that the conflict leads to no additional bloodshed. Stubb emphasised that “all parties, both the government and the Tamil rebels, must respect human rights and must take account of humanitarian needs. Channels must be opened, help must be delivered and institutions must be built,” the foreign minister said in summarising needs in Sri Lanka. It is positive that according to the information now received, a good many civilians have been able to flee the battlegrounds.

Additional consensus about Russia

The EU foreign ministers also discussed the approaching EU–Russia Summit. “Additional consensus is now needed in relations with Russia, so that we do not become sidelined,” Foreign Minister Stubb stated. In his view, the EU should stick to matters that are as concrete as possible. “Clear support must be given for Russia’s accession to the WTO and to progress in the PCA partnership negotiations, and attention must be paid, among others, to the question of excise duties on round wood.”

Foreign Minister Stubb pointed out that the foreign affairs objectives even of the large EU Member States are not reached without support from the other EU Member States – but uniformity is an asset. “It is my hope that this positive view would also be remembered when discussing the EU elections,” Stubb said.

Somalia on the agenda for the joint session

Besides the foreign ministers, the EU ministers of defence were also meeting in Brussels. EU operations, especially Atalanta in Somalia, were prominent on the agenda during both the defence ministers’ own session and the joint session. Minister of Defence Häkämies stressed that by securing assistance transports, more than 150,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid had been delivered to Somalia. Finland’s own military input still remains to be determined, since plans for sending a mine carrier to combat piracy requires, for instance, juridical consideration from many angles.

“What, for instance, would be done with imprisoned pirates, what would it cost and who would pay,” are among the key issues to be considered. “Naturally we also take into account crisis management overall and the navy’s own activities,” Minister of Defence Häkämies emphasised at the press conference held for Finnish journalists. If the operation were launched, an estimated one hundred or so reserves and regular force representatives would take part, in the usual way.

The EU has already concluded an agreement with Kenya concerning the acceptance of imprisoned pirates. Additional solutions are also being sought; for instance, with Tanzania and the Seychelles.

Additional information: Press Counsellor Jussi Seppälä, tel. +32 476 950 547


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Updated 5/19/2009

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