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News, 12/2/2011

Common Security and Defence Policy took a step forward

At their meeting on Thursday, the EU Foreign Ministers reached agreement on progress towards a more efficient Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Britain abandoned its previous opposing stand, and the Foreign Ministers were able to endorse conclusions on the CSDP. “The solution wasn’t found yesterday evening, or last night, but in the morning we reached agreement,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja to Finnish correspondents in Brussels.

Minister Tuomioja pointed out that this was only a minimum compromise, yet it was an important step. The main bone of contention has been the question of how to develop the Union’s military planning and command capabilities on the basis of the existing operations centre. Future work will be based on the Weimar Initiative presented by Germany, France and the EU Presidency, Poland. According to Minister Tuomioja, “efforts to develop the planning and command capabilities for operations will continue in the spirit of the EU Treaties”. The goal is simply to give the CSDP the boost it needs.

Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs meets his EU colleagues regularly, for instance, at the meetings of the EU Foreign Ministers. Photo: Council of the European UnionFinland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs meets his EU colleagues regularly, for instance, at the meetings of the EU Foreign Ministers. Photo: Council of the European Union

Closer relations between the Arab League and the EU

The EU strongly supports the Arab League’s policy regarding Syria, which is torn by Government-induced violence. “We stand behind the Arab League’s initiatives on Syria in every way possible,” Minister Tuomioja stressed at his press conference for Finnish correspondents.

Tuomioja continued that the Arab League has recently gained more weight in every respect. “The Arab League has become an increasingly important partner for the EU, especially now that the League has taken into use decisions by qualified majority, which enable even difficult decisions,” the Foreign Minister said analysing the situation. According to Minister Tuomioja, the establishment of permanent relations between the EU and the Arab League seemed to gain general support.

The EU decided again to impose new sanctions against Syria and to begin the preparation of stronger sanctions against Iran. Minister Tuomioja explained that, although Finland, too, has expressed its official protest to Iran about the attacks on the British Embassy, the reason for the sanctions is expressly the IAEA report warning about Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons programme.

Again a long agenda

The Foreign Ministers’ varied agenda also included topics such as the Western Balkans and the Middle East peace process. As concerns the latter, the Arab League hopes that the EU will assume a stronger role, since the approaching elections will narrow the political leeway of the United States.

With respect to the Western Balkans, the focus was on Serbia. “Finland is definitely in favour of granting Serbia candidate membership at the European Council meeting in December,” Foreign Minister Tuomioja underlined. The situation in Northern Kosovo gives cause for concern, but according to Minister Tuomioja, the leaders of Serbia cannot be held responsbile for that.

Additional information: Veikko Kiljunen, Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, mobile tel. +358 40 3519526; Press Counsellor Jussi Seppälä, mobile tel. +32 476 950547.

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Updated 12/2/2011

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