STRAW MEETS EXTERNAL RELATIONS COMMISSIONER BENITA FERRERO-WALDNER
The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, met the EU Commissioner for External Relations and the European Neighbourhood policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, today as part of the UK's preparations for assuming the Presidency of the EU. The Foreign Secretary hosted Javier Solana, the CFSP High Representative, in London for pre-Presidency talks on 28 June.
They reviewed the Commission's external relations activity, and look forward to the next six months under the UK Presidency.
Jack Straw said:
'I look forward to working closely with Benita Ferrero-Waldner over the 6 months of the UK Presidency. I am strongly committed to the principle that we can have a stronger foreign policy when the whole EU is working together. I believe we have demonstrated this through our work in Iran. There will be no higher priority in the next 6 months than working for peace in the Middle East.
'The Commission is working hand in hand with Quartet envoy Jim Wolfensohn on Gaza withdrawal, and as leading international donor of financial assistance, is developing a comprehensive governance strategy for the Palestinian Authority building on the results of the London conference earlier in the year.
'The European Neighbourhood Policy is central to promoting stability, security and prosperity in our region. The UK will work with the Commission to develop plans, and negotiate new plans with Egypt, Lebanon and the countries of the Southern Caucasus.
'The Commission has also made some excellent proposals to deepening relations with Mediterranean partners through the Barcelona Process, with a view to strengthening support for good governance and human rights, economic reform, and education; and we look forward to working with them in preparation of the Euromed tenth anniversary summit.
'The EU and Commission have an important, shared agenda where the actions, expertise, and leadership of the Commission make a substantial contribution to delivering the EU's foreign policy priorities.'
Benita Ferrero-Waldner said:
'We look forward to working with the UK Presidency to deliver on its ambitious programme for EU foreign policy. I am delighted to commit the full support of the Commission in delivering on our common goals. During the UK Presidency, the Commission will continue to promote democracy through our targeted election monitoring missions, including in the Lebanon, Palestine, Afghanistan and Ethiopia. We were among the very first international donors to respond with humanitarian assistance to the Asian Tsunami, and are deeply committed in the long term reconstruction of affected countries, contributing also to resolving political conflicts in Aceh and Sri-Lanka.
'On Iraq, the Commission's increasing engagement, and the successful International Conference in Brussels last week will pave the way for further engagement. We look forward to preparations for negotiating an EU-Iraq Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and to the Commission's intention to open an office in Baghdad in the near future. I am determined to work with the UK Presidency to develop further the Commission's contribution to the political challenges facing the EU.'