Foreign and development ministers' joint efforts to improve EU's external action
The foreign and development ministers of the EU held their first joint session in Luxembourg on 17 October 2006. "The first meeting of its kind ever was an important opportunity to discuss the coherence and effectiveness of EU's external action", told Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja in the press conference following the joint session. Ministers also discussed the EU strategy for Africa.
"Coherence and effectiveness of the European Union's external action is one of Finland's EU-presidency priorities. It was important to discuss the issue with the development ministers", Tuomioja said. The previous day EU-Presidency Finland organised a likewise historical joint meeting of EU's trade and development ministers, who focused their discussions on aid for trade -issues. Both other memberstates and EU Commission were very thankful for Finland for organising the joint sessions. As the globalisation deepens, also EU has to answer the challenges by a broadminded dialogue across different sectors.
The next EU-Africa Summit will be held during the Portuguese EU-presidency in Lisbon in 2007. "EU wants to encage African partners more closely in its efforts to push for reforms", Tuomioja said and referred to the situation in Zimbabwe.
Following the joint session with development ministers, EU foreign ministers held their own monthly council meeting. Foreign ministers discussed current international issues including among others North Korea and the tensions between Georgia and Russia. Also Western Balkans, Iran and Zimbabwe were on the agenda.
On North Korea, EU's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) Javier Solana wants EU to focus on the next steps to be taken. "There was a strong UN security council resolution, next thing to do is to analyse how to implement it and to organise common policy of the EU", Solana said.
On the recently tense relations between Georgia and Russia, EU's Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner underlined, that both parties have responsibilities to turn back the rhetoric and make efforts to prevent the escalation of the current tensions. "EU is ready to rebuild confidence between the parties, if both sides agreed to ask for it", Ferrero-Waldner said.