EU to continue support for Palestinian authority

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja considers the decision taken by the EU to continue its support for the Palestinian Authority important for the peace process in Middle East. Foreign Minister Tuomioja and Minister for Foreign Trade Kimmo Sasi took part in the General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on Monday, February 26. Apart from the situation in the Middle East, the meeting also dealt with the recent events in West Balkans and removed the remaining import tariffs for goods from the least-developed countries.

Foreign Minister Tuomioja told that the EU will continue giving financial support for the Palestinian Authority because a collapse of the administration would endanger the peace process as a whole. The Foreign Minister pointed out that the EU will put further pressure on Israel to pay the Palestinians the various taxes and fees that are frozen at the moment. According to Tuomioja the EU hopes that also other than EU countries would participate in supporting the Palestinians. At least Norway and some Arab countries have recently contributed with aid packages worth tens of millions.

The EU ministers discussed another crisis area, the Western Balkans and condemned the violence by Albanian groups against Serbs. Albanian extremist groups have recently attacked Serbs especially in Southern Serbia and Kosovo. The EU decided to raise the number of its monitors in the area from the present 9 to 30 monitors. The EU also acknowledged the work of the present government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in actively assimilating the Albanian population in its society and administration. The conclusions of the Council also stress the importance of developing the autonomy of Kosovo and consequently the organizing of elections in the region.

Minister for Foreign Trade Kimmo Sasi noted that the decision by the EU to extend the duty-free agreement to cover nearly all imports from the least-developed countries was an important political signal from the point of view EU´s credibility. It was of special importance to reach the decision before the preparations for the next negotiating round of the WTO. There will be transition periods concerning bananas, rice and sugar during which the tariffs will be gradually removed.

Finland supports duty-free access for imports from poorest countries

Conclusions by the GAC can be found under Council and General Affairs(Linkki toiselle verkkosivustolle)