EU new foreign chief outlines policy frame

10:02, January 12, 2010      

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The European Union (EU) new foreign chief, Catherine Ashton, gave a frame of defense and security policy when questioned during a three-hour confirmation hearing in front of MEPs on Monday.

Ashton, 53, was nominated as high representative for foreign affairs and security policy by EU heads of state at a summit last November, but must be confirmed by the European Parliament.

Ashton underlined a number of issues concerning the EU's external relationships while stressing the importance of nurturing" effective partnership" with all the relevant players, not only the United States, China and Russia, but also Turkey, Japan, Canada, Brazil and South Africa, and a "full cooperation" with India as it is a key player.

The Lisbon Treaty, which came into effect on Dec. 1, gave more clout to the EU on the international stage. Ashton reiterated the need for new EU foreign policies to be able to influence the new emerging powers such as China.

Ashton said she is already planning to visit Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi and hotspots such as the Middle East and Bosnia soon after a trip to Washington to discuss with the U.S. state Secretary, Hillary Clinton, on how they can pull together their strategies on the global issues.

The EU diplomatic supremo also gave her views on thorny issues such as the Middle East, for which she pointed out that the two-state solution was "vital" to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

"It is absolutely vital that we get progress in the Middle Eastto get two states that exist. The State of Israel has the right to exist securely and safely in the Middle East, as does the Palestinian state," the EU policy chief said.

As for the Iranian nuclear issue, Baroness Ashton declared that "Iran has made mistakes in its relationships with the West and must work with the international community over its human rights record and its nuclear program", referring to Tehran's rejection of a proposal sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), aimed to break the deadlock over its nuclear program talks.

On Afghanistan, Ashton said that the EU put a lot of effort and money in the country in other areas than military such as primary healthcare, a huge potential to add value on the ground.

Concerning the neighborhood policy, Ashton said, "the EU's relationship with our neighborhood is fundamental, in terms of th epolicies that we pursue."

Ashton underlined the need to have commissioners working with her in that strategy. "We will develop an expertise in the neighborhood in a way that with all the responsibilities I have I certainly couldn't do," she said, adding that someone focusing on regional bodies such as ASEAN, would enrich the role that she has.

Source: Xinhua
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