GAERC debate on Kosovo concluded

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia
February 18, 2008
Riga, Latvia

On 18 February in Brussels Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins took part in a General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) meeting, which focussed on the Western Balkans and in particular Kosovo, after its declaration of independence was adopted on 17 February.

The Foreign Minister commended the ability of the EU member states to reach a consensus on the future development of relations with Kosovo and the Western Balkan states. Foreign ministers of the EU member states supported the European perspective for the Western Balkans and asked the European Commission to apply community instruments to promote political and economic development in the region’s states. The council noted that each member state will decide on its relations with Kosovo according to national practice and international law. It is expected that Latvia will make a decision on the recognition of Kosovo’s independence over the coming days.

EU foreign ministers welcomed the continued presence of the international community based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244. On 16 February the Council of the EU agreed to establish an EU Rule of Law mission in Kosovo, adopted the operational plan for the mission, and appointed Peter Feith as the EU Special Representative in Kosovo. The EU civil mission will be fully launched within 120 days after its initiation, with the objective of supporting the strengthening of Kosovo’s judiciary, police, and customs services. It is planned that a number of representatives of Latvia will also take part in the mission.

As regards other issues of EU external relations, Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner provided an insight into the planned work by the European Commission in the area of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2008. Taking part in the discussion, Foreign Minister Riekstins thanked the EU Presidency and the European Commission for their accomplishments in fulfilling the objectives of neighbour relations which were defined at the European Council of June 2007. The Foreign Minister also stressed the necessity of strengthening the ENP even further. The GAERC welcomed the commencement of negotiations with Ukraine on the free trade section of a new deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DFTA). The council also noted the positive development of EU-Moldova relations during the last year and acknowledged the readiness of the EU to consider the possible commencement of talks on a new DFTA, according to the assessment that will be provided by the European Commission in its Progress Report in April 2008.

At the meeting of the External Relations Council, ministers discussed the current situation in the Middle East, including Lebanon, and addressed the recent developments in Chad, Sudan, and Kenya. The participants of the meeting expressed concern about the situation in Burma/Myanmar.

The European Commission informed the ministers on the current situation in the WTO multilateral trade liberalisation talks, as well as on negotiations regarding Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with African, Caribbean, and Pacific states. The Foreign Minister emphasised the need to reach a balanced result in talks concerning all trade issues significant to Latvia.

At the General Affairs Council meeting, ministers exchanged opinions on the preparation of the spring European Council, which is due to take place on 13-14 March 2008 in Brussels. Its agenda, as proposed by the Slovenian EU Presidency, will include the launch of the next three-year period 2008-2010 of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Employment and talks on an integrated climate and energy policy, as well as on stability of financial markets.

As reported previously, on 17 February in Brussels Mr Riekstins attended a working dinner of the foreign ministers of the Baltic and Nordic states and Poland with Volodymyr Ogrysko, the newly appointed Foreign Minister of Ukraine. Discussions focused on the current situation in Ukraine and its relations with the EU, including the progress in the negotiations on the new DFTA.