|The EU's Foremost Goal Is Enlargement |
The EU's Foremost Goal Is Enlargement
Source: Tim Boden, Foreign Press, European Parliament. January 23, 2001.
"Our foremost goal is EU enlargement" declared Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister and President-in-office of Council Anna Lindh this morning to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Mrs Lindh committed the Presidency to speed up the pace of accession negotiations. As part of the EU getting its own house in order, she anticipated that the text of the Nice Treaty would be finalised and agreed by 27 February when it would be signed. In particular, concerns about the number of seats that Hungary and the Czech Republic will have in the European Parliament would be addressed as part of the accession negotiation process.
Commenting on a reported statement by the EU's High Representative Javier Solana criticising EU foreign policy making, the Foreign Minister declared that she welcomed criticism as it was a means of analysing the current situation and improving it.. There were certainly occasions when the EU did not speak with one voice and common strategies needed adequate resources. Mr Solana was an "asset" to the EU, she declared.
Mrs Lindh also stressed the importance of developing the EU's and military capabilities, by establishing the permanent structures needed and cooperating with NATO and non-EU countries. In the civilian sphere, concrete efforts would be made first in the area of policing as well as strengthening judicial systems, civil administration and rescue services. Prevention of conflict was key here, she said.
The President-in-Office emphasised the need for intensified cooperation between the EU and Russia, while underlining the importance of respect for human rights and her concerns over the situation in Chechnya. The Northern Dimension had become a permanent part of the EU's activity and was closely related to cooperation with Russia. However Mrs Lindh sought to reassure several MEPs by stressing that this approach would not mean that less attention would be paid to other countries, particularly the EU's Mediterranean partners.
Other areas of instability such as the Middle East and the Balkans would also be high on the EU's agenda. Mrs Lind called in particular for an end to the blockades of the Palestinian areas and to the Israeli policy of execution of Palestinians. She understood that this latter policy had now ceased. She also promised that the issue of the possible dangers caused by depleted uranium would be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Finally the President-in-office called for maximum transparency – specifically on the issue of depleted uranium. She recognised that a balance had to be struck and that policy makers needed the "space to think" and prepare things. However "openness and transparency would be the watchwords" and she wanted to encourage a direct dialogue with citizens on the future of Europe.