EU foreign ministers gatherd in Brussels today for their last monthly meeting before summer break. The meeting will also the mark the beginning of the six-month Dutch EU presidency. The meeting will be dominated by talks on Iraq, Sudan, the Middle East, and the future of the EU-Asia partnership, including the status of Burma. On 13 July, some EU officials will meet the foreign ministers of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The foreign minister of Iraq's interim government will also be in Brussels for talks with EU officials.
Brussels, 12 July 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Hoshiyar Zebari, the foreign minister of Iraq's interim government, is expected to meet his European Union counterparts in Brussels today to discuss how the 25-nation bloc can help his country's reconstruction.
Zebari and the EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss proposals for helping train Iraqi police and advising the interim government on setting up its administration and running ministries.
EU foreign ministers are also expected to adopt a declaration reaffirming the bloc's willingness to launch a dialogue with the interim Iraqi government.
The EU is also seeking to discuss with the United Nations the possibilities of supporting preparations for Iraqi elections.
The EU has set out a three-stage program for supporting Iraq. But the program will depend on whether and when the bloc can set up a representative office in Iraq. That remains in doubt because of continued security concerns.
The EU foreign ministers will also discuss the Middle East peace process and the 9 July ruling by the UN's International Court of Justice that the security fence being constructed by Israel contravenes international law.
The ministers will also reaffirm the key role of the "road map" to peace backed by the EU, the United States, the United Nations, and Russia. The so-called "quartet" suffered a setback last week, when Israel refused to receive a delegation of its officials.
Meanwhile, one of Israel's vice prime ministers is expected on a visit to Brussels early this week to sign a cooperation accord with the EU on Galileo, the bloc's satellite navigation project.
ASIA - BURMA
The foreign ministers will also return to the question of whether to recognize Burma's membership in the Asian regional bloc ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting).
Many member states insist the EU must no have direct links with Burma's dictatorial regime. At the same time, the EU wants ASEM to recognize its own recent enlargement.
EU officials say no decisions will be adopted on the issue today. One official said a number of EU member states are prepared to boycott the EU-ASEM summit in Hanoi in October if members of the Burmese government attend.
The ministers will also endorse a declaration on the escalating humanitarian crisis in Darfur, western Sudan. The EU has promised emergency aid but says African Union member states must supply any peacekeeping forces.
The ministers will adopt a short statement on Afghanistan. The EU is likely to welcome the recent announcement of a date in early October for presidential elections in the country. EU officials, however, have long stressed the importance of both presidential and parliamentary elections taking place at the same time.
BOSNIA -- PEACEKEEPING
The EU will today formally agree to take over from NATO the SFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. The handover will take place before the end of the year, with NATO retaining a limited presence to among other things continue operations to apprehend suspected war criminals.
EU foreign ministers will also take a look at the agenda of the Dutch presidency. Some of its more difficult issues are likely to relate to enlargement.
Officials say the Netherlands opposes the EU's current strategy of "coupling" together Bulgaria and Romania for simultaneous entry despite Sofia's superior progress. But sources say any Dutch push to "decouple" the two countries is not likely to succeed.
The Dutch presidency will also oversee the controversial decision of whether Turkey will be allowed to begin entry talks.
The ministers will also discuss an EU initiative to restart global trade liberalization talks. Officials admit, however, that the initiative is unlikely to met with the approval of key partners, among them the United States and Australia.