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EU summit overshadowed by war


EU summit overshadowed by war

On March 20 and 21 the heads of state and government of the European Union met in Brussels for their spring summit where they were scheduled to focus their attention on the EU's agenda of economic and social reform.

However the dominant subject of discussion was the war in Iraq. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder noted after the summit: "In the current situation it is our urgent desire to see the war end as rapidly as possible."

Preventing a humanitarian disaster

The EU member states hope the war will cause as few casualties as possible. In a joint statement issued on the evening of March 20 the EU expressed its commitment to be actively involved in addressing the humanitarian needs that will arise from the conflict.

The EU members have differing views on the conflict in Iraq. Asked about their assessment of the war Schröder replied: "We were not able to reach an agreement on the basic issue." He said no attempt was made to convince anyone and that there were simply different positions on this issue.

There is a need now to look ahead to the future and to undertake efforts to prevent the occurrence of a humanitarian disaster. The Greek Council Presidency has already formulated detailed proposals in this regard. It goes without saying that Germany will do what it can to help rebuild Iraq.

The view is taken that EU assistance should be organized and provided in the United Nations framework. The heads of state and government expressed their conviction that the UN must continue to play a central role in the coordination of relief work during and after the current crisis. They feel the UN Security Council should provide a strong mandate for this purpose.

Moving forward with CFSP and ESDP

The European Union is determined to strengthen its ability to act in the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

The Iraq conflict ought to be a warning to all EU member. It has made it more than clear how important it is, particularly in crisis situations, for Europe to be able to speak with one voice. It is only then that Europe will be able to exert influence on global developments.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt put forward the proposal that his country should work together with Germany and France to promote the development of a common defence policy. At the beginning of the year Germany and France submitted proposals to the European Convention on the further development of ESDP. Chancellor Schröder feels that promoting the development of these policies is "the right thing to do", adding that the initiative is open to any other countries who want to join in.

The EU remains convinced of the need to strengthen the transatlantic partnership. Schröder noted that the development of a European defence policy will strengthen NATO.

The heads of state and government reiterated their commitment to the fundamental role of the United Nations in the international system and to the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and stability.

Middle East and Balkans

The heads of state and government and their foreign ministers also discussed the situation in the Middle East and in the Balkans. In the wake of President Bush's speech on March 14 and the appointment of the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmud Abbas, efforts are being undertaken to lend new impetus to the Middle East peace process. This is an important development. The German government is very much interested in seeing priority importance attributed to resolving the Middle East conflict, given the significance of this problem for the stability of the region as a whole as well as for the fight against terrorism.

Just how unstable the overall peace process is in the Balkans was shown by the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic, a man who embodied hope for the democratization of Serbia. It can be seen that international efforts to promote stability in Serbia and elsewhere in the Balkans are on very thin ice. The EU needs to remain actively committed to the process of political and economic stabilization of the Balkans.

Lisbon Strategy

The intended focus of this year's spring summit is the EU's economic and social agenda. The summit was the fourth of its kind - after Lisbon, Stockholm and Barcelona. At the Lisbon summit in March 2000 the EU set itself the ambitious goal of becoming the world's most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy by the year 2010.

In a joint letter Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair submitted proposals to the Greek EU Presidency for the spring summit aimed at improving conditions of competition for European industry.

The contents of the letter are reflected in the Presidency Conclusions. Schröder was pleased by this, saying: "It is important that Europe also address traditional industrial policy issues."

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