Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms


8 October 2009

Press Conference, Stockholm

Topics: Australia-EU Troika meeting, Australia-EU Partnership Framework, Afghanistan

CARL BILDT: We have just concluded the Ministerial Troika between the European Union and Australia. We have primarily revised and updated the Australia-EU Partnership Framework for 2009 and 2010 and then we have had a rather extensive exchange of views on all sorts of issues. I think it can be said that we have a very good relationship. We see eye-to-eye on almost all of the issues that are on the international agenda. There has been good preparation within the G20 framework and further within the UN framework and we have an evolving relationship in quite a number of different areas. But Foreign Minister Smith and Commissioner Ferraro-Waldner would like to say something.

STEPHEN SMITH: Foreign Minister, thank you very much for that. Commissioner, thank you. First, I am very pleased to be here for the Australia–European Union Partnership Framework Ministerial Consultations. This time last year, Australia and the European Union presented the Australia–European Union Partnership Framework for the first occasion, and it has really set the modern basis for the relationship between Australia and the European Union.

We have been very pleased with progress today, not only vis-à-vis the like-mindedness that Carl referred to. But we have also had some very positive practical outcomes: the Australia - European Union Wine Agreement; the European Union becoming a foundation member of Australia's Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, and also the support of the European Union at the Pacific Islands Forum Post-Forum Dialogue on Development Assistance and Effectiveness (the so called Cairns Compact). There is other good work we are proposing to do over the next twelve months, particularly the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement between Australia and the European Union over the next 12 months.

As the Minister said, on so many of the international issues there is a like-mindedness, a like-minded approach. This morning we have traversed not just the relationship between the two of us, but also our respective views on a range of regional and international challenges. So, Carl, thank you very much for your hospitality. It is very good to be here. We also conducted a bilateral meeting with Carl last night. I will meet some more of his Ministerial colleagues this afternoon. It is a very good outcome, and we are very pleased to again go through our annual ministerial level consultations. Thank you.

BENITA FERRERO-WALDNER: From the Commission point, I think the most important is the dynamism that is there in this relationship. I mean, we started past year, we signed in Paris under the French Presidency and now we already have to upgrade, or we do upgrade our relationship. I think this is really an excellent way of doing things. The wine agreement, just to give you also some figures, means both sides of Australia and the European Union, seven billion Euros, I mean, this is a huge amount of trade. But I think it is also important to talk to Australia, a like-minded country, also on questions like climate change and energy security. All these issues are really very, very high on our agenda and they have also been quite high on our talks today.

We also, of course, have had an exchange of views on the big partners in the world, on the G20 meeting, because there we think a lot has been indeed achieved but a lot will have to be implemented by all of us and particularly with strategic partners like Russia and China. So, indeed, I think that also the Pacific Region, where we can learn a lot, where we listen also to Australia, I am thinking of Fiji. So, thank you again and I think it was a very good Troika.

CARL BILDT: Thank you. Any questions?

QUESTION: A question for Mr Smith. How does the Australian Government look upon the situation in Afghanistan? Do you have any plans to increase the number of Australian troops in the land?

STEPHEN SMITH: We have had a long standing commitment to Afghanistan. We are in Afghanistan because we believe it is in Australia's national interest to be there, just as we believe it is in the interest of the international community. The Afghanistan/Pakistan border area is in our view currently the breeding ground of international terrorism, and it has to be confronted.

Australia and Australians have been on the receiving end of terrorist activity over the last half dozen years, most recently with the attacks upon the hotels in Jakarta. There have been other occasions in Bali, an attack upon our embassy in Jakarta, Australian victims at the World Trade Centre and also bombings in London. So, we believe it is part of our responsibility, together with the rest of the international community under a United Nations mandated International Security Assistance Force to be there.

We recently increased our military complement from 1100 to 1550. We did that in the last three or four months and at the same time substantially increased our development assistance and our training capacity.

We are considering very carefully the so called McChrystal Review. We will have input into the United States', NATO's and ISAF's consideration of the McChrystal Review. But given that we have recently increased our military contribution, we have not received a request for further military contribution and we are not anticipating one. We believe that our current military contribution is appropriate. We are the ninth largest military contributor. We have the largest non-NATO contribution. We are open-minded about a further civilian capacity-building contribution, because in the end we have to make sure that the Afghans themselves can manage these very difficult issues.

QUESTION: Mr Bildt, I was wondering if you could tell us something what you hope to achieve at the meeting in Bosnia?

CARL BILDT: Later this week, this evening? Yes, well, overall we need to move the rest of the Balkans forward. There must be a sort of momentum of integration in the entire region. If that stops, we run into difficulties. We have a serious of blockages all over the Balkans, and it is the ambition of the Presidency, the Commission and others to start to remove as many of these blockages as we can. We had an amount of success with the agreement between Croatia and Slovenia, we removed that particular blockage.

We now have some issues with Bosnia, where we want to give the message together with the Americans, with Deputy Secretary Steinberger and Commissioner Ollie Rhen, give the message to the Bosnians that the rest of the region is moving forward, they need to de-block themselves in order to not to be left further behind. That requires for them to take certain steps so that they will be able to move forward to an application for membership of the European Union, the MAP, the Membership Action Plan inside NATO. That is the disadvantage of being outside NATO.

The meeting today, this evening and tomorrow, is the start of a process, and that process must be carried forward by the Bosnian leaders themselves in order for them to join the integration momentum that is there in the rest of the region. Because Bosnia falling further behind the region is distinctly bad. We have seen this in the [indistinct] issue, where the rest of the region is moving forward faster than Bosnia. That leads to tensions inside Bosnia, and if the same happens on other issues it is going to be to the detriment of Bosnia. So we are going to give that message very clearly to them.

QUESTION: What steps should be taken in the shorter term?

CARL BILDT: I think they know roughly what they need to do. We will highlight some of the issues they need to address, in much the same way as the rest of region must address in order to be ready to move to application for membership of the European Union. I mean, note that we have the Croatian accession moving forward. We have Macedonia FYROM that has had candidate status for a number of years. Albania and Montenegro has applied for membership. Serbia is very close. And Bosnia must get itself ready for this.

But as I have said somewhat bluntly, the European Union is a union of sovereign democracies, not a union of semi-functioning, semi-protectorates. It is up to the Bosnian politicians to take their country from a semi-protectorate to a sovereign democracy. We cannot do that. They will have to do it. But we want to show them the way, and the fact that we do this in cooperation between the European Union and the Americans is, I think, of particular significance.

QUESTION: Two questions, Mr Bildt. The first one, what is the EU Presidency thinking about the Gaza Goldstone Report? The other one, should the EU take sanctions against the regime in Guinea after the massacre in September?

CARL BILDT: On the Goldstone Report, we have of course taken note of it. It is now in the Human Rights Council, and that is why we think it should be deliberated, it is an independent report. It is worthy of consideration, needless to say. I think Mr Goldstone is a person of high credibility, high integrity. Accordingly his report carries weight. But we see the discussion on it primarily within the framework of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

QUESTION: And on Guinea, no further comments?

CARL BILDT: No. OK. Thank you very much.



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