Merkel outlines goals of German EU presidency

14th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

14 December 2006, Berlin (dpa) - Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged the states of the European Union to work closer together as she outlined Germany's goals when it takes over the bloc's presidency. Energy security, research and development, education and cutting back bureaucratic red tape would be priorities of the six-month presidency beginning January 1, she told parliament. Merkel said Germany intended to promote a good-neighbour policy with states bordering the EU with little or no chance of j

14 December 2006

Berlin (dpa) - Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged the states of the European Union to work closer together as she outlined Germany's goals when it takes over the bloc's presidency.

Energy security, research and development, education and cutting back bureaucratic red tape would be priorities of the six-month presidency beginning January 1, she told parliament.

Merkel said Germany intended to promote a good-neighbour policy with states bordering the EU with little or no chance of joining the soon-to-be 27-member union.

She also said it would press ahead with a timetable for the proposed EU constitution, which has been on ice since its rejection last year by Dutch and French voters.

A united Europe can achieve success, but a divided Europe weakens the strength of the EU, she said, urging the EU to speak in unison "with a strong voice" when dealing with international flashpoints.

"We face enormous problems in the Middle East," the chancellor said, adding that Germany hoped to breath new life into the Mideast Quartet, the EU, the US, the UN and Russia, which has been mediating in the conflict.

Saying "unusual steps" were required in the search for peace, Merkel defended a trip to Syria last week by Foreign Minister Frank- Walter Steinmeier, which had come under fire by Israel.

Although the trip had not achieved the desired success, "it was symbolic for the understanding of the foreign policy of the entire German government," she said.

This understanding included the readiness to hold a dialogue with countries such as Syria and Iran based on a clear set of values and principles, she added.

Merkel said the western Balkans would also play a role in the coming six months, particularly the future status of Kosovo, a province in southern Serbia which has been under UN administration since 1999.

The EU would also pay more attention to Africa, she said, ahead of a summit between the EU and African states planned for the second half of 2007 when Portugal takes over the rotating presidency.

Merkel began her speech by thanking outgoing EU president Finland for the work it had done in the past six months.

Finland "had achieved a great deal under difficult circumstances," she said before heading to Brussels to take part in the European Union's year-end summit.

Merkel said the EU's decision on Monday to partially freeze membership talks with Turkey was "balanced as well as decisive" and showed that there could be no question of Ankara joining the bloc until it instituted reforms.

Coinciding with the start of Germany's EU presidency, Berlin will also take over from Russia as president of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations.

Merkel said Germany's G8 priorities would include efforts to establish common political standards for globalization and bring more transparency to international capital markets.

More effective protection for intellectual property rights, ways to combat product piracy and steps to improve environmental protection would also be high on the agenda, she said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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