FULL SCHEDULE: Urmas Paet met with colleagues in preparation for EU-Russia summit.
TALLINN - During his meeting in Brussels with his colleagues from Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet discussed European security matters, topics related to the upcoming European Union-Russia summit taking place on Dec. 7, Estonian cooperation with the Benelux nations, as well as 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 including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East.
The meeting took place from Nov. 21-22, where the Baltic and Benelux ministers also discussed topics concerning the enlargement of the European Union as well as developments in the Middle East, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, and Burma/Myanmar, expressing support for the continuation of accession negotiations with Turkey and Iceland and for the conclusion of negotiations with Croatia. Relations between the Baltic and Benelux nations were also discussed.
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 emphasize 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 Organization (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 cooperation,” he said. “This applies to Russia as well as to other third nations that are striving for visa facilitation with the EU,” he stated. “In Russia’s case, we must find a solution to the border queues, since the EU-Russia border should not be an obstacle to the free movement of people and goods,” said Paet.
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.
Paet stated that the European Union foreign ministers plan to discuss the European Union’s relations with strategic partners. “It is important to include China, India, and other rising powers in the resolution of global and regional problems,” Paet stated.
The foreign ministers also prepared for the upcoming EU summits with Africa, India, Russia, and the OSCE.
Paet stated that Europe’s security architecture must be based on shared values and reciprocal agreements that the signers adhere to, because this is the only way it will be possible to achieve unified and indivisible security. “The proper place for discussions on Europe’s security architecture is the OSCE, and it is important that the final document from the summit held at the beginning of December will emphasize the need to resolve current conflicts,” Paet noted.
During the General Affairs Council, preparations were made for the session of the European Council to be held from Dec. 16-17. The European Commission’s initiative, by which it hopes to improve the European Union’s capability, coordination and effectiveness in reacting to disasters, will also be discussed.
At 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 eurozone is necessary.
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.
Paet said that the regular meetings of the foreign ministers of the three Baltic nations, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg are important for co-operation among the states. “Active communication helps to intensify cooperation and increase our understanding of one another, and a mutual sharing of positions helps to ensure the unity of the European Union,” said Paet.
The foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg meet once a year to exchange positions on regional and international cooperation topics. The first such meeting took place in 2007 in Latvia.