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European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy
Speech to European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee
Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET), European Parliament
Brussels, 29 September 2009
I am delighted to have this opportunity for an exchange of views with you – our first formal encounter of this new Parliament. I am very much looking forward to working together in the coming months.
As agreed with the President, I will start by giving you a flavour of events last week in New York, and then talk a little about the Communication on strengthening the EU’s relations with Latin America, due for adoption tomorrow.
One of the highlights of last week at the United Nations was President Obama’s address to the General Assembly. His speech touched on the four themes which I believe are central to the challenges the world faces today and which topped the agenda throughout the week: non-proliferation and disarmament; peace and security; climate change and the global economy.
We saw a truly historic moment in the Security Council with its resolution on non-proliferation and disarmament . It’s extremely encouraging to see the extent to which the US’s recent moves, in particular regarding bilateral arms control negotiations with Russia, have created a more positive atmosphere. We hope that next year’s NPT 2010 NPT Review Conference will be more successful as a result.
Unfortunately the positive mood was marred by Iran ’s revelation that it had been developing a second nuclear facility at Qom, in a further violation of its UNSC obligations. The recent missile test was a further provocation. This Thursday’s meeting in Geneva will be critical to determining the international community’s response and I very much hope we will see a more constructive approach.
Peace and Security
The conflict in the Middle East was the subject of much attention during the week, particularly the trilateral meeting between President Obama, President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. The EU 27 discussed this and the wider situation with Secretary of State Clinton – we welcomed the meeting as a significant step toward the re-launching of negotiations, paving the way for a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions. Clearly we all hoped for more, but just getting the two parties in the same room together was a major achievement.
Secretary Clinton felt there was potential for negotiations to begin in the next few weeks – hopefully we should see some progress by 15 October; in any case, as she also put it, we need all parties to focus on the key issues at stake: two states for two peoples, Israel and an independent, contiguous and viable state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
The Middle East Quartet meeting later in the week stressed the importance of building on the trilateral meeting and moving swiftly to negotiations. All agreed that it was important to get the talks re-started quickly. We urged Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to refrain from provocative actions in East Jerusalem. At the same time we called on the Palestinian Authority to continue to make every effort to improve law and order, fight violent extremism, and end incitement. The situation in Gaza is still very difficult and a resolution is urgently needed, in particular the opening of the crossings for humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons.
The EU is totally supportive of the US’s efforts for peace and we hope for an early start to negotiations. We will all need to do our utmost to bring the parties to the table and keep them there.
Pakistan was also a major topic of debate. The Friends of Democratic Pakistan Summit was an important occasion for the international community to demonstrate our support for Pakistan’s efforts to fight violent extremism and stabilise the country. The Heads of States present at the meeting agreed Pakistan is in the forefront of the international struggle against terrorism. What happens there affects other countries directly.
We reiterated our strong commitment to further assist Pakistan in improving the living conditions of its people, the long-term solution to violent extremism.
The Summit on climate change convened by the Secretary-General, and the subsequent G20 Summit in Pittsburgh last weekend were marked by strong support from world leaders for a deal at Copenhagen.
Japan’s commitment was particularly significant, as it contributes to making the two-degree target available. The Chinese and US stances were also welcome.
But there’s a great deal of work still to be done. Just the week before we led the way by proposing that industrialised nations provide the public financing needed to help developing countries meet the costs of mitigation and adaptation – with a possible EU contribution of €2-15 billion a year by 2020, assuming an ambitious agreement is reached in Copenhagen.
The route to a sustainable and balanced global economy must lie through a successful result at Copenhagen. We must be ambitious, and the EU is determined to persuade others to match our level of commitment.
The global economy rightly dominated a lot of discussion in New York and then in Pittsburgh, where the question of financial regulation was high on the agenda. The task is two-fold, ensuring the recovery is sustainable and tackling the roots causes which led to the crisis; but also a more concerted effort on development and ensuring the Millennium Development Goals are achieved.
The G20 made important commitments on both fronts, but the proof will of course be in their implementation. Here again the EU is leading the way with its own recent proposals: now we must ensure we live up to our promises.
Beyond these issues, there was also a great deal of core UN business on the agenda: Security Council reform was, as usual, the subject of calls for broader representation. It’s essential that we continue searching for creative solutions, but in the meantime we need to focus on concrete advances in other areas.
In that regard I was particularly encouraged by the progress on gender equality - creating an effective single UN body for gender would be a big step towards achieving gender-related development goals.
Three important meetings on empowering women took place during the week – the breakfast I co-hosted with the UN and the African Union on Resolution 1325; a lunch hosted by Secretary of State Clinton for female Heads of State and Foreign Ministers; and a meeting on women and climate change hosted by Finland and Liberia.
Following on from the international conference I organised here last year, the breakfast was a very successful meeting on boosting the implementation of Resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security. We wanted to raise awareness and push for concrete advances to be made ahead of next year’s implementation review conference.
EU-Latin America Communication
Tomorrow I will present the new Communication marking ten years of Strategic Partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean. Against the backdrop of a new and more complex global context, and ahead of next Spring’s Summit, it assesses where we stand today and outlines the targets and objectives which should guide our strategy towards the region in the coming years.
At a time when international alliances are ever more important in tackling global challenges, we can be proud of the flourishing partnership we have with the region.
The purpose of the Communication is to emphasize the importance the EU attaches to working with Latin America - finding solutions to problems like the economic and financial crisis, climate change, energy security, and migration.
We hope that all this will give a new impetus to our relationship, sending a strong signal to our partners of the importance we attach to relations with their region, thus preparing the grounds for the Summit under the Spanish Presidency.