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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Speech by Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign Affairs and current President of the European Council, to the Foreign Affairs Commission at the European Parliament

Date of Speech : 18-01-2005

Place : Brussels

Speaker : Jean Asselborn

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your warm welcome.

Since the beginning of European integration, Luxembourg has always been an ally of the European Parliament. Our relations have never been restricted to formalities. Together, we have helped on more than one occasion to steer Europe in a direction we were certain was the right one. May I just say that you can rely on our support, and vice versa.

Nicolas Schmit, our Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, will be joining us soon. He will be responsible in particular for relations with the European Parliament. Some of you already know him through his former duties as Permanent Representative.

Presiding over Europe for the eleventh time is important for Luxembourg. In order to succeed, we will require the support of all the Member States, as well as that of the European Parliament and the European Commission.

We will have to bring decisions vital for the future to a successful conclusion, further other decisions, seek the best possible understanding with our partners, launch projects and open up new areas of reflection and cooperation.

This is the spirit in which Luxembourg intends to act, in order to carry on with the excellent work of the Dutch Presidency and in close cooperation with the United Kingdom, which will succeed us on 1 July 2005.

The task will be arduous, the agenda ambitious; and the European Union will face up to great challenges, both at the European and the global level.

I. At the European level


The conclusions of the European Council of 16 and 17 December 2004 set the agenda for the enlargement of the European Union under the Luxembourg Presidency.

First of all, the Presidency will seek to finalise the drafting of the accession treaty with Bulgaria and Romania. The organisation of an official signature ceremony in April 2005 during the "General Affairs and External Relations" Council meeting should bring the lengthy accession negotiations to an end. The deadline for the institutional procedure is without doubt subject to the official agreement of the European Parliament, which we expect to receive for the April meeting in Strasbourg. The actual accession of the two candidate countries is not scheduled until 1 January 2007. However, the transposition of the agreement will be persistently monitored.

Following on from that, the Luxembourg Presidency will begin negotiations with Croatia. This will send an important signal to the Balkan Countries, which were promised a European perspective at the European Council of Thessalonica. Here, a key issue is, of course, collaboration with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Work under the Luxembourg Presidency will be aimed at establishing a framework for negotiations, which will determine the criteria for conducting the technical negotiations themselves. The negotiations can be launched as soon as GAERC has approved the framework for negotiations on 17 March 2005.

The convening of an Intergovernmental Conference will officially launch the screening process of the ‘acquis’ by the European Commission, prior to the opening of the technical discussions chapter by chapter.

Finally, with regard to Turkey, the 3 October 2005 has been fixed for the opening of negotiations, in accordance with the conclusions of the European Council of December.

Constitutional Treaty

Within the framework of the implementation of the Constitutional Treaty, the Luxembourg Presidency will be called upon to continue the preliminary work begun under the Dutch Presidency, with a view to introducing the Common External Action Service.

Furthermore, 2005 will be a crucial year with regard to the ratification of the Treaty establishing a European Constitution.

The entry into force of this new founding pact is subject to its ratification in each of the 25 Member States, of which the majority envisage bringing their respective national procedure to an end during 2005.

In addition, the various national ratification procedures will be closely monitored throughout the year, both in those Member States which put the relevant text to parliamentary vote and in those where popular consultations are held. In any event, the results will be the subject of an in-depth analysis.

B. European Union’s external relations

The importance of this dimension of the Presidency has grown considerably, as has the importance of the European Union on the global stage, together with the ensuing responsibilities. The goals of the European Union are familiar: a more stable, prosperous world, and one more respectful of human rights. These goals guide the totality of the European Union's external action, which has at its disposal a set of instruments to help carry them out. The Presidency has noted with interest that this commission has been complemented by two sub-commissions, "Human Rights" and "Security and Defence".

Common foreign and security policy and cooperation with third countries

Within this context, the Presidency will be responsible for pursuing the implementation of the European security strategy, which was adopted a year ago and forms the framework for European external action. From this strategy arise a number of fundamental choices to which the Presidency will have to give concrete expression.

One of the major guidelines of this strategy is the priority given to multilateralism. The European Union sees in this system the best means to achieve its own ambitious goals. Therefore, it will continue to support multilateralism in all its forms. I name three examples in particular:

The European Union will support the current thinking within the United Nations on the future of the multilateral system.

At the WTO, the Presidency will be keen to encourage the quickest possible conclusion of the Doha Round, whose importance in the development of the world economy and integration of developing countries into world trade needs to be emphasised.

Finally, the first six months of 2005 must see out the reform of the non-proliferation treaty, an undertaking whose urgent nature is amply highlighted by current events.

The European Union will also conduct its action within other multilateral organisations such as the OSCE and the Council of Europe, whose third summit is planned in May.

Apart from this bias in favour of multilateralism, the European Union will also seek to achieve its goals through intensive dialogue and cooperation with several partners. The summit meetings planned with countries such as the United States and Russia will be an opportunity to mark potentially decisive stages in the relationships between these countries.

The United States remains an indispensable partner of the European Union. In this context President Bush's visit to Brussels on 22 February will stand out as an extraordinary event. It will allow to give a new impetus to the relations between the EU and the United States. 

The Luxembourg Presidency will have to pursue the declarations adopted under the Irish Presidency with concrete substance, notably through reinforcing economical partnership and the war on terrorism. The traditional EU-US summit at the end of the Luxembourgish Presidency will be the moment to take stock of these initiatives and think about possible new orientations.

Russia is a strategic partner of the European Union, a country whose internal and external political choices have a major impact on our security and prosperity. The European Council of December 2004, gave a mandate to the Luxembourg Presidency to conclude, in time for the EU-Russia summit of May 2005, a balanced package of the four areas. We will give our utmost to achieve this.

External security is of increasing importance. It will be the task of our Presidency to implement the European Neighbourhood Policy, a  policy which the European Union established with the aim of further deepening relations with the neighbouring countries of the enlarged Europe. The implementation of the Action plans, adopted in December, will prove to be crucial. As early as February, the Luxembourgish Presidency will hold a meeting of the Cooperation Council with Moldova. It also hopes to decide in January on the transfer of the Action plan to Ukraine, and hold a special session of the Cooperation Council with this country in February. The EU was present in Kiev at the key moments of the elections. Its duty at present is to assist the new Ukrainian authorities in their reform efforts.     

Luxembourg will oversee the seventh ministerial meeting of the Barcelona process, also known as Euromed. This neighbouring region of the Union faces challenges which have a direct influence on the security and prosperity of the European Union. It is therefore incumbent upon the Presidency to prepare this meeting with the greatest of care.

Another ministerial meeting of far-reaching importance will be held in Luxembourg between the EU and its Latin American partners with whom relations are continually intensifying.

After the tidal wave that struck Asia, the Presidency has convened an extraorinary session of the "General Affairs and External Relations" Council, in order to assess actions already undertaken. The Presidency and the Commission are currently working hand in hand in order to give concrete shape to these first orientations in view of the GAERC of 31 January. 

Ministerial meetings are planned within the framework of the ASEM and EU–ASEAN, as well as with Japan, China, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Over and above these specific meetings, and following on from pre-existing EU commitments, the action of the Presidency is especially dictated by the evolution of numerous external challenges confronting the EU, the evolutions of which imply more or less forseeable commitments.

It would be to no avail to attempt to review here all the problems which will have to be tackled. It is enough for me to touch on the main ones: the Middle East peace process; the success of the elections in Iraq and the deepening of relations between the EU and this country; the protection of human rights and the fight against nuclear proliferation in Iran; developments in Ukraine, the Caucasus, Belarus and in Moldova; the situation in Africa which includes a number of crisis spots, be it in Sudan, the Ivory Coast or the Great Lake region.

2005 will again witness important events in the Balkans. The international community will in particular be called upon to take stock of the situation in Kosovo. Standards in Kosovo will be analysed and if their level is sufficiently high, negotiations on the status of Kosovo could possibly begin by the middle of the year. Another great challenge for the European Union will be the future development of Bosnia. The military mission which the EU has just begun there is an example of the strengthening of the European security and defence policy (ESDP) and cooperation between NATO and ESDP. These two developments are crucial for the future of the European Union’s external action.


As you see, Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, many challenges lie ahead for the European Union and the Luxembourg Presidency. However, I know that we shall be able to count on the support of all our partners in order to face these challenges.

In conclusion, you may rest assured that the Luxembourg Government will be completely mobilised under this Presidency. I am convinced that one of the keys to a successful Presidency is knowing that Europe is not there to be managed by a single hand, but that she advances by making compromises.

The Luxembourg Presidency, which will play its role of honest broker, will be relying on its allies in the European Parliament to contribute to the compromises which will take Europe forward.

Thank you very much.

This page was last modified on : 18-01-2005

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