Council of Ministers take steps to ease differences with the United States
ΑΤΗΕΝS.- GreekNews, Comb. Agencies
European Union foreign ministers agreed on Saturday to draft the Union’s first common European security strategy, with a goal to avoid future damaging diplomatic rifts like the Iraq crisis. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou announced the plan after ministers from 25 current and future member states debated European defense and strained transatlantic relations aboard a luxury cruise yacht moored on the island of Kastellorizo, just few miles off the coast of Turkey.
“We all agree that, yes, there is a crisis or at least a problem in our transatlantic relationship. We arrived at a very important proposal: that we should set up a European security concept. If we want to have a substantive discussion with the United States, we first and foremost have to agree what our own priorities are,” Papandreou told a news conference.
The European Union’s informal two-day Council of Foreign Ministers has been focused primarily on the Middle East issue and the reconstruction of Iraq. In a press conference jointly addressed by Foreign Minister and Council of Foreign Ministers President George Papandreou, European Union High Commissioner for Common Foreign and Defense Policy Javier Solana and Foreign Policy Commissioner Chris Patten, the first meeting between the 25 foreign ministers was hailed and the Council’s informal nature was stressed that does not allow for official decisions.
On the question of Iraq’s reconstruction process, Papandreou spoke of two common positions in the EU’s ranks concerning the next steps to be taken and the need for the UN to issue a mandate on the legalization of the transitional status in Baghdad.
”We gave Mr. Patten the green light to prepare the humanitarian aid issues and the role of the European Union in the effort for the reconstruction of Iraq,” Papandreou said.
The foreign minister added that on the part of the ”25” there is the intention of their charge d’Affaires’ returning to Baghdad, while Solana has undertaken the processing and preparation of proposals on shaping European strategy in the region to enable them to be presented at the European summit in Thessaloniki.
Replying to a question on the political symbolism of the foreign ministers’ visit to the city of Kas, on the Turkish coast, on Saturday, Papandreou referred to ”falling walls, just as we are seeing walls falling in Cyprus as well these days.”
”The Greek islands face Turkey. There was intense trade activity between the two sides once upon a time. This activity can start again. This symbolism will be promoted in particular with our visit tomorrow,” he added.
Referring to the discussion on common European defense, Solana spoke of a ”very useful exercise” that will help the EU which is not a military power.
”The moment is suitable for us to begin a process to enable us to ascertain how and what we can do in this sector and if we can also agree on a certain text,” he said.
EU FMs examine return of diplomatic missions to Iraq: The European Union is examining the issue of the return of their diplomatic missions to Baghdad as one of the first steps the Union is considering following the war in Iraq.
Following the meetings of the European Union’s foreign ministers’ council in Rhodes on Friday, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who is presiding over the council, said, during a press conference, that the issue was tabled as an ”in principle relevant intention” of the member-states.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw spoke of ”consent within the European Union for the return of the European ambassadors to Baghdad as soon as possible”.
It was not clarified; however, whether for the return of the diplomats would require the precondition of a mandate by the United Nations recognizing the provisional administration of Iraq.