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European Union (EU)
23 June 2004
Priorities of the Dutch EU Presidency
Presentation to the international media by Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Bot and Minister for European Affairs Atzo Nicolaï
Brussels, 23 June 2004
Our third priority area is external relations. Since the accession of ten new member states, expectations about the Union’s role in the world are higher than ever. The Dutch Presidency will try to meet these expectations by continuing work on the current wide ranging agenda, with a clear emphasis on four topics.
(Strategic partnership with the Mediterranean and Middle East)
Another emphasis in our external relations will be the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is a primary source of tension between the Muslim world and the West. It must therefore be at the top of our agenda. With the US and our other partners in the Quartet we have a common goal on this matter. The region is clearly indicating that it wants to see Europe play a more outspoken role. European engagement is in our own interest, but also in the transatlantic and international interest.
We cannot impose peace, but we must help the Israelis and Palestinians to break out of their downward spiral. That will require entering into an intensive dialogue between them. It also implies that the final outcome, including the borders, must be the result of mutual consent by both parties, not of a unilaterally imposed dictate.
Several summits taking place this month are focusing on our relations with the Mediterranean and the Middle East: that includes the G-8; NATO, and EU-US summits. The G-8 declaration is highly compatible with the EU’s Barcelona process. Ownership is essential; we cannot impose change. The reform of the family code in Morocco is a good example of an encouraging development, and was brought about by the Moroccans themselves. In the words of the departing OIC Secretary General Dr Abdelouahed Belkeziz, it is “evidently high time for the Islamic world to take a decisive position on democracy since much hinges on that position, if we are to move away from being the passive objects of others’ influence to the active agents of a positive influence on international affairs.”