EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg
Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 23 April
© Council of the European Union
The EU Foreign Ministers’ Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on 23 April focused on the broad suspension of EU sanctions against Myanmar and, on the other hand, the tightening of enforcement measures towards Syria. Minister of State Michael Georg Link represented Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the meeting.
The Foreign Affairs Council agreed to temporarily suspend existing EU sanctions against Myanmar, with the sole exception of the weapons embargo. The EU also intends to support the further economic and social development of Myanmar.
In making these moves the EU is responding to the positive developments in the country following the handover of power to a civilian government and the by-elections on 1 April, which secured a seat in the country’s parliament for Aung San Suu Kyi, the candidate of the NLD opposition party. The Myanmar Government has also initiated legal reforms and released political prisoners.
Minister of State Link said ahead of the Council meeting that the temporary suspension of sanctions had occurred at the right moment and showed recognition for the fact that “things are moving in the right direction, faster and more clearly than most of us expected”. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton likewise paid tribute on 23 April to the “enormous changes” underway in Myanmar.
On the other hand, Link remarked, the sanctions had not yet been permanently lifted because Myanmar was not yet “definitively out of the woods”. He added that the country would continue to be watched closely to see that it stuck to the path of reform, and that in six months a decision would be made about whether to maintain the suspension of sanctions.
Minister of State Link said in Brussels that the situation in Syria remained highly troubling and the ceasefire fragile. The EU Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their full support for Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan. Minister of State Link said it was now very important to remain united on this point: “We need clear signals that Assad will not be able to keep digging himself in behind the cover of Beijing and Moscow.”
This, he continued, was one reason why Saturday’s unanimous UN Security Council resolution had been “extremely important”. The resolution has mandated an observer mission. According to Link, Germany had offered to contribute its own technical or logistical assistance to the observer mission.
The EU Foreign Ministers agreed a 14th round of sanctions against the Syrian Government, focusing on what are known as dual-use goods: biological or chemical materials which could potentially be used to suppress the Syrian population. Sanctions have also been imposed on the export of luxury goods to Syria.
Trouble spots in Africa
The EU Foreign Ministers also discussed the tensions in four African countries. Military coups have taken place recently in Mali and now also in Guinea-Bissau. The Council condemned the coups and called for an immediate end to the violence and for the protection of civilians. A civilian government has now assumed power in Mali.
The EU Foreign Ministers announced their intention of continuing to closely observe and support the transition process in Mali. Regarding Guinea-Bissau, they urged that a legitimate government take power immediately, that the interrupted democratic elections process be resumed and that constitutional order be restored.
A border conflict between the Sudan and South Sudan which erupted in recent weeks has escalated violently. South Sudan recently announced that it would withdraw its troops from Heglig in northern Sudan.
The EU Foreign Ministers welcomed this move and called upon both sides to refrain from further attacks and to seek a political process to resolve the conflicts over South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Last updated 23.04.2012