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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Jean Asselborn presented the priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU Council to the OSCE

Date of Speech : 27-01-2005

Place : Vienna

Speaker : Jean Asselborn

Competence : Rélations extérieures

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Mr President,

Mr Secretary General,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is for me an honour and a privilege to be able to address you today in my capacity as President of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.

Addressing the Permanent Council of the OSCE on this very day, the 27th January, declared Holocaust Commemoration Day, has a very special significance for me. The Helsinki Conference, a precursor of the OSCE, which was born during the Cold War in a divided Europe, set itself the objective of promoting cooperation between nations on the European continent beyond antagonistic ideologies, of promoting their security and the respect of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the principles of democracy - values common to all people.

It is the memory of the unspeakable suffering of millions of innocent victims that we will be honouring this afternoon in Auschwitz where, at the end of my meeting with you, I will be attending a commemoration ceremony, together with our Head of State, Grand Duke Henri.

Mr President,

Being the host of this Organization in which the EU has such a great interest, I wish to warmly congratulate our Slovene friends for the important role they are assuming in presiding over its destiny during 2005. I thank them for taking on this difficult task, and wish them courage and every success.

I can assure you that you have the full support of the Luxembourg Presidency.

Mr President,

For six months, starting  from 1 January this year, Luxembourg holds the Presidency of the European Union. Since the time of signature of the founding treaties, almost half a century ago, we have had the honour of assuming this role 11 times now. Over the course of successive enlargements, the progressive strengthening of the European institutions and the extension of their sphere of activities, this task has become ever more burdened with responsibility.

Luxembourg will make the most of the next six months in order to advance the European construction and strengthen our Union still further.

Mr President,

2005 is a particularly important year for the European Union. The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, the new Founding Pact, will need to be ratified in each of the twenty-five Member States. The Presidency will follow very closely the various national ratification procedures taking place over the course of this year.

The role of the European Union as a player on the global scene has evolved considerably, in parallel to the importance attached to its external relations. The external activities of the EU are aimed at promoting peace, democracy and stability, in particular through combating the underlying causes of insecurity in the world. Making the world a more stable and more prosperous place and ensuring greater respect for human rights constitutes one of our major objectives. The EU is working towards this goal by using all instruments at its disposal, which include Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) as well as the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

As part of the external action of the EU, the Presidency will also be responsible for pursuing the implementation of the European Security Strategy agreed in December 2003. Through this strategy, the European Union aims to build a stronger international society, international institutions that operate effectively and an international order based on a set of rules. The aim of the European Union is to achieve its Security objectives by means of an effective multilateralism. It is within this multilateral framework that the European Union pursues its activities to prevent and combat terrorism, the scourge of our times. In like vein, the Union will continue to act in order to protect and promote human rights and fundamental liberties.

As part of its European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), the European Union has launched the ALTHEA mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Other (ESDP) operations of a civilian nature, such as policing missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Former Republic of Macedonia or the State of Law mission “EUJUST THEMIS" in Georgia, are in progress and will benefit from the full support of the Presidency.

In the Western Balkans, the Presidency will pursue the implementation of the 2003 Thessalonica agenda and the process of Stabilisation and Association. It will continue negotiations with Albania, with a view to signing a Stabilisation and Association agreement, and will start negotiations with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro as soon as the required conditions have been fulfilled.

With Croatia, negotiations for membership will begin in March 2005, provided that a full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is assured. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is expected to supply its answers to the European Commission questionnaire in the course of the first half of 2005, which should enable the EU to continue to examine the country's application for membership to the European Union.

2005 will be a crucial year for Kosovo, as the international community is due to examine the implementation of the standards, on which the future status of the province will depend.

We will also continue to work on implementing the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). It is within this framework that the European Union adopted Action Plans with Ukraine and Moldova at a political level during the Council of General Affairs of December 2004. During the next stage, the European Union will address the possibility of elaborating Actions Plans with the countries of the South Caucasus, which were included in the European Neighbourhood Policy in June 2004.

The Russian Federation, as a neighbouring country, is a very important partner for the European Union. At the EU-Russia summit in May 2005, the Presidency will aim to achieve a balanced package comprising the four spaces based on common values and shared interests.

The Luxembourg Presidency attaches the utmost importance to an efficient and balanced transatlantic partnership with the United States, in particular in respect of the new challenges and threats of the 21st century, such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The visit of President Bush to Brussels in February will be an exceptional event that will bring new life to the relationship between the EU and the United Sates.

Mr President,

Let me now turn to the priorities of our Presidency that concern more specifically the activities of the OSCE.

For the European Union, there is no doubt that regional organisations such as the OSCE help to strengthen good governance in their area of activity. The activities of the OSCE constitute, in the eyes of the European Union, a very valuable contribution.

The European Union constantly examines the means whereby it can improve its co-operation with the principal international organizations. The activities of the OSCE are of great value for the European Union. Thus, in the course of 2003 and 2004, the Council of Ministers has twice looked into cooperation between the EU and the OSCE in terms of conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict reconstruction, first by defining the methods of this cooperation and then by adopting an assessment report on the role of the EU in relation to the OSCE.

The Presidency was inspired by this report to identify the themes that it believes need to be prioritised during the first half of 2005, namely the problems related to the OSCE’s finances and budget, the preservation of the OSCE’s achievements in the human dimension and discussions on the reform of the organisation.

Mr President,

For the OSCE, 2005 has begun with a very difficult financial and budgetary situation, which is both worrying and unhealthy. The contribution of the 25 Member States of the European Union constitutes over 70% to the organization’s annual budget. The Union has therefore an important role to play in finding a solution to this situation. Before the end of 2004, the Member States of the Union have lent their support to the “Best Guess" compromise proposal made by the Bulgarian President in office. The European Union calls on all the participating States to support this proposal. It will not only enable the Organization to emerge from the current impasse, but it will also make it possible to look for a more equitable system of sharing contributions.

Thirty years ago, in Helsinki, our representatives at the time all agreed that the dialogue and cooperation, which were to develop in this forum, should include three “baskets", more commonly knows as the politico-military, economic and environmental and human dimensions. The European Union is ready to examine the relative importance of each of these three dimensions and to find a better balance between them, should this prove necessary. This must not, however, be to the detriment of the third dimension, which, for the Union is at the heart of the OSCE acquis; instead the two other dimensions must be re-assessed in response to the needs identified.

In the opinion of the Luxembourg Presidency, we should avoid any measures that call into question the organisation’s fundamental values and principles or that weaken its institutions, as well as some of the activities we consider the jewels in the crown and the added value of this organisation, namely the election observation missions organised by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE‘s field missions.

In Sofia, last December, we took the decision to ask a panel of eminent people to review the “effectiveness of the Organisation, its organs and its structures," and to provide us with an overall assessment in view of the challenges to be met. The Luxembourg Presidency considers that this decision is an important step in providing a constructive answer to the appeals for "reform" from a number of participating countries. I would like to point out that the European Union has also declared that it was ready to join an open and constructive discussion on the Organisation’s effectiveness. The Luxembourg Presidency expresses its support for the President in Office, who will have the difficult task of choosing the seven members of this panel and of coordinating their work so that a report can be submitted next June.

Within the Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC), the Luxembourg Presidency will stress the need for destroying light and small-calibre weapons (LSCW) and surplus conventional munitions.

Mr President,

The OSCE includes many countries that are part of the new neighbourhood of the European Union. In the eyes of the Union, the OSCE is a privileged forum for dialogue with these countries.

As I mentioned earlier, the Luxembourg Presidency of the European Union will pay special attention to the Western Balkans in the course of 2005. The Union is directly involved in the region, alongside the OSCE and other international actors.

Elsewhere, the Presidency reaffirms its support for the OSCE’s efforts for finding a solution to the so-called “frozen" conflicts in Moldova Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Sofia Conference set a number of important milestones and we must now begin to implement the decisions that have been adopted, be it in the fight against terrorism, in the fight against human trafficking, or the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination. The Presidency shall work in a constructive spirit to implement these decisions, particularly in view of the major events of the OSCE that will mark the first half of the year, namely the Economic Forum, the Annual Security Review Conference (ASRC), and the Conference on Anti-Semitism and Other Types of Discrimination, to be held next June in Cordoba.

As part of the regular meetings between the EU and the OSCE, a ministerial Troika is scheduled for 23 March. The meeting will provide an opportunity for a detailed discussion of our common concerns and the complementary between the EU and the OSCE.

Thank you for your attention.

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This page was last modified on : 27-01-2005

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