Summary: July 10, 2001: The programme of the Belgian Presidency of the EU - Address by L. Michel to the EU Parliament.
Members of Parliament,
I am pleased to be able to present to you today the programme for our Presidency of the European Union.
The Prime Minister described to you on 4 July the major challenges, which we shall have to address during the six months ahead. For my part, I should like to set out the intentions of the Belgian Presidency with regard to enlargement and the Union's foreign policy actions.
In line with the objectives defined in Helsinki, the European Council in Nice carried out the mandate, which will allow the Union to prepare to welcome the new Member States. For those defending an ambitious conception of European construction, the results of Nice are inadequate. However, we must ratify Nice. To reject this Treaty would amount to sending the wrong message to the applicant States - the message of a Union, which is indecisive and over-cautious - on the eve of the historic reunification of the Great Europe.
The pursuit of the accession negotiations will form a central plank of the Belgian Presidency. These negotiations will take full account of the principles of differentiation and catching up defined in Nice. They will likewise respect the timetable defined at the European Council in Gothenburg. The progress of these negotiations will depend above all upon the applicants themselves and their ability to apply the Community 'acquis'.
The Belgian Presidency will bear a significant responsibility in the accession process. The negotiations will be concluded under a future Presidency. Under ours, some difficult issues will be negotiated, such as transport, energy, veterinary and plant health standards, food safety, and justice and internal affairs policies. The Belgian Presidency will shoulder this responsibility alongside the Commission, which will negotiate on behalf of the Union.
In order to maintain the dynamic of the negotiations, an initial meeting of the intergovernmental accession conferences at alternate level will be held this month, and the enlargement issue will appear on the agenda for the European Councils in Ghent and Laeken.
The enlargement of the Union is a matter of duty: the duty to reunify countries artificially divided by History. In order to succeed, the unification of the Great Europe will have to take into account the legitimate concerns of its populations in terms of security, social rights, immigration and agriculture. The Union will need to see to it that the increase in the number of its members does not occur to the detriment of their integration.
II. The Union's foreign policy actions
The Presidency will first of all seek to press on with the work embarked upon by the previous Presidencies to improve the effectiveness and coherence of the foreign policy actions of the European Union.
A greater role needs to be granted to the High Representative for the Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy, the CFSP. With the Commission, the High Representative will be called upon more and more often to ensure the foreign representation of the Union in the framework of European foreign policy. The frequent missions by Messrs Solana and Patten to the Balkans and the Near East have demonstrated the wisdom of this development. The Belgian Presidency can only encourage this trend.
As to the content of the programme in terms of the Union's foreign relations, the Belgian Presidency will be working on four thrusts:
- declaring the Union able to manage certain crises;
- having it play a role in the stabilization of conflicts;
- deepening the dialogue and co-operation with third countries;
- reinforcing the Union's action in defence of universal values.
1st thrust: Acquiring a crisis management capability.
The Belgian Presidency will need to pursue the intense work underway over the past two years in the field of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). In line with the decisions taken in Nice, it is under our Presidency that the European Council is due to declare the European Union operational in terms of crisis management. I must be honest with you: this task is as complex as it is ambitious. Without a tangible effort by every Member State, including Belgium, in terms of military capacities, the European common security and defence policy will not be credible. Moreover, there is an urgent need to get a permanent arrangement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization enshrined before the Laeken declaration on the operational character of the ESDP.
The Belgian Presidency will pursue the efforts undertaken to allow the European Union to make the optimum use of all avenues open to it, be they humanitarian, commercial, financial, political, diplomatic or relating to co-operation, to make coordinated interventions before, during and after conflicts. As a continuation of the work undertaken by the Swedish Presidency, the Belgian Presidency will seek, with the help of the Commission and the High Representative, to identify some concrete instruments for conflict prevention.
2nd thrust of our programme: Stabilizing regional conflicts
The Union cannot stand by indecisively and fearfully in the face of the persistent instability in the Near East, the Balkans and central Africa, to mention only those three areas of conflict.
In central Africa, we intend to work with our partners in the Union to pursue the efforts undertaken to bring about a negotiated settlement to the conflicts underway, and to provide the necessary assistance to the civil society with a view to the rehabilitation of essential services such as health care, education, transport, the State of law and administration. In co-ordination with the competent international organizations, an inventory will need to be drawn up, which will be used for the drafting of an action plan for peace and development in central Africa. Finally, in line with the mandate entrusted to it at the Council of Foreign Ministers on the basis of the work of the Commission, the Belgian Presidency will start reflections about the prevention of conflicts in Africa and the relations between humanitarian aid, rehabilitation and development aid on that continent.
The Middle East remains bedevilled by major insecurity, which Europe cannot ignore. The Union needs to get involved in the search for peace. Everyone is expecting a contribution from Europe, not simply a financial contribution but above all some political support for the relaunching of the negotiation process. In collaboration with the High Representative and the Commission, the Belgian Presidency will see to it that on this score, the Union maintains close consultation with the United States and all the States in the region.
The Belgian Presidency will pay particular attention to the situation in the Balkans. In close collaboration with the High Representative and the Commission, and following the Zagreb Summit, it will press on with the negotiation of the Stabilization and Association Agreements with a view to promoting regional stability. Events in Kosovo, in the former Federal Republic of Macedonia and in the south of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia demonstrate that nothing has yet been achieved. Within the limitations of the existing instruments, the Belgian Presidency will strive to ensure the Union's contribution to the efforts by the international community to stabilize the regional conflicts.
3rd thrust of our Presidency: The political dialogue with third countries
It will be incumbent upon our Presidency to conduct the political dialogue which the European Union maintains with third countries or groups of countries. This dialogue has become more intense.
The Belgian Presidency will supervise the reinforcement of the privileged co-operation, which the European Union enjoys with the United States. This co-operation is set to increase as the Union progresses with its integration process. The deepening of the dialogue in terms of European security and defence policy will help to breath fresh vigor into the transatlantic link. Peace and stability in the world, the battle against cross-border crime, sustainable development and in particular the struggle against pandemics, the expansion of international trade and co-operation within the international organizations will form the main themes of the dialogue between the European Union and the United States.
Pursuing the efforts undertaken by the previous Presidencies, the Belgian Presidency will press on with the dialogue with Russia with a view to developing the existing co-operation as well as a strategic partnership. The political dialogue with that country will relate to certain precise themes of common interest (security, economic relations and questions relating to justice and internal affairs). A summit with Russia will be held in Brussels in October.
Belgium will focus on maintaining the dynamism of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership known as the 'Barcelona Process'. Particular importance will be granted to the support of the Union for the economic reforms, which the countries in the Euro-Mediterranean region have undertaken in order to establish a free trade area by 2010. A ministerial meeting of the 27 Member States of the Barcelona Process is scheduled for November 2001.
In the framework of the dialogue between the Union and Africa, launched by the Union/Africa Summit in Cairo a year ago under the Portuguese Presidency, Belgium has scheduled a ministerial meeting to tackle the essential issues for the future of Africa (in other words the question of debt, regional economic integration of the environment, food security, the battle against AIDS). There will be a particular focus on the implementation of the provisions of the Cotonou agreement on the dialogue between the countries in the Caribbean and Pacific regions.
As to Asia and Oceania, the summits scheduled under our Presidency with Japan, India and China illustrate the importance we intend to attach to relations between the European Union and Asia. We have likewise scheduled a ministerial meeting in July with the 10 countries of South-East Asia. Finally, the Union will very closely monitor the process of democratic transition in Indonesia, the elections in East Timor and its access to independence.
As to Latin America, the Belgian Presidency will concentrate on preparing for the Summit between the Union and the countries of Latin America, which will be held in May 2002 under the Spanish Presidency.
Finally: 4th thrust: the action of the EU in defence of universal values
Certain questions which I will describe as transverse - most of which relate to universal values and principles - today occupy a growing place in international relations. They are: non-proliferation and disarmament, human rights, the United Nations and development co-operation. Most of these questions are addressed in intergovernmental organizations or big international conferences.
The Belgian Presidency will make every effort to reinforce the cohesion of the Fifteen in the initiatives, positions and approaches of the European Union in these areas, in particular as far as human rights are concerned.
The principles of freedom, democracy and the State of law, coupled with respect for universal and individual rights and fundamental freedoms, have taken on increased importance in the relations between the Union and third countries, including co-operation and development. Some significant milestones, such as the holding of the World Conference against Racism in Durban or September's extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations on children, will give the Union the opportunity to progress towards greater coherence, greater effectiveness and greater credibility for its actions.
Only a strong, determined Union speaking in unison will be able to claim to persuade the members of the international community to move towards the universalisation of the existing international instruments in areas such as the abolition of the death penalty; the nuclear test ban; the struggle against anti-personnel mines; and the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our programme is admittedly ambitious. It is a logical extension to the efforts undertaken by the previous Presidencies. This is particularly true in the case of the Union's foreign policy, which has undergone wide-ranging and lasting changes over the past 2 years.
The day-to-day management of the affairs of European foreign policy is not a job to be tackled in isolation. The Belgian Presidency will devote the time necessary to the consultation of its partners. Moreover, our programme will be implemented in close collaboration with the Commission and the High Representative for the Union's foreign policy.
The great challenge facing the 11th Belgian Presidency is to move forward together towards a more political Europe with a higher profile on the international stage.