|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||16/05/96, Volume 2, Number 20|
FOREIGN ministers approved an EU action plan for Russia, designed to “achieve the full integration of Russia into the community of free and democratic nations”. Among the actions foreseen are: helping to monitor presidential elections in June; establishing parliamentary contacts between Russia's Duma, the European Parliament and EU national assemblies; and supporting Russia's bid for membership of the World Trade Organisation. Ministers also called for closer commercial ties with Russia, the promotion of transport and energy links between the Union and Russia, and improvements in market access in sectors such as financial services. On security matters, the EU said it would develop more contacts with Russians to work on disarmament, arms exports, non-proliferation and conflict prevention. The action plan also contains provisions under which the Union would help Russians ensure nuclear safety and protect their environment. “The plan is a practical checklist of what is needed to keep Russia on track,” said one diplomat.
MOSTAR's planned 31 May elections should not be postponed, EU foreign ministers agreed. Postponement could throw off the elections elsewhere in Bosnia which are scheduled for September. But ministers remained unsure as to how to tackle problems such as getting the refugees back home to vote and keeping locals from boycotting the elections.
GREECE continued to block the MEDA development funding package for a dozen countries of North Africa and the Middle East because it includes money for Turkey. By abstaining from a vote, Athens allowed ministers to send the funding package to the European Parliament for approval there, but gave every indication that when it returns to the Council of Ministers for final approval, the blockade will continue. “I want the Turks to drop their claim (to the island of Imia in the Aegean Sea) or at least to address it to the international court at The Hague,” said Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos. Until that happens, Greece will continue to prevent the deployment of MEDA funds.
COMMISSION plans to negotiate an agreement with Albania were approved by ministers, but the deal stops short of offering the country full EU membership. An association agreement would put Albania's relations with the Union on a higher level than those with other former Yugoslav republics, but would keep Albania one notch below Slovenia, which expects to join the Union.
AFTER a long, contentious debate, ministers approved plans for negotiating a trade agreement with Mexico, but the result was a compromise. Some EU governments wanted to declare their intention to build a free trade zone with Mexico and start negotiations to that end this year, while others wanted to address that question in a few years' time. Instead, they agreed to allow the Commission and Mexico to negotiate on opening both markets on a sector-by-sector basis. In principle, the talks will cover all sectors, but EU governments could block any one of them at any time. Agricultural openings, for example, would require the unanimous approval of EU member states.
PROGRESS was noted in negotiations between the EU and Switzerland in research, agriculture, the free movement of people and public contracts, as well as inland and air transport. But ministers said problems on transport and free movement of people remained, and that the two sides must complete their talks “as soon as possible” to keep EU-Swiss ties healthy. They said transport ministers should ensure next month that 40-tonne lorries will have access to Swiss roads. Ministers asked the Commission to keep negotiating and to report again on progress in July.
MINISTERS decided against the immediate resumption of aid to Niger, saying the conditions had not yet been fulfilled for the normalisation of relations. A statement issued after the meeting said the results of last weekend's referendum in Niger had to be assessed and the ban on political parties lifted before a decision could be made. But ministers said that once that had happened, a gradual return of aid could begin.
COUNTRIES neighbouring Liberia were urged by EU ministers to give at least temporary shelter to Liberian refugees fleeing the war-torn country in boats. “The Union deplores the fact that the thousands of people crammed in precarious conditions on ships in the area are still in search of a friendly port,” they said in a statement.
RICHARD Holbrooke has left public office and returned to private life, but he is still forcing EU ministers to react. The former US troubleshooter and architect of the Dayton peace accord for Bosnia-Herzegovina gave an interview in which he said the military aspects of the peace agreement - managed by the US - were working well, but the civilian aspects - managed by the EU - were not working at all. Foreign ministers discussed Holbrooke's comments and, according to Italy's Susanna Agnelli, who chaired the meeting, decided they were unfair and not very generous.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Northern Africa, Russia|