Brussels, 26 July 2004 - At the Council for General Affairs and External Relations in Brussels, Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner emphasised that the EU expects the Sudanese government to undertake increased efforts immediately in order to protect the population of Darfur. "The government in Khartoum must now finally translate words into action. Although access to the crisis region has been improved for relief organisations, the reported violations of human rights are horrendous and must be stopped immediately. Subsequently, the perpetrators of such shameful deeds must be brought before the courts", said the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Furthermore, the report of the United Nations Verification Mission will be important in this context. Following that, the UN Security Council could pass a resolution providing for sanctions against the Sudanese government if it fails to comply with its obligations. "The central question is how the government in Khartoum can best and most swiftly be prompted to permanently improve the situation of the people in Darfur ", stated Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner.
Further items on the agenda of today's Council included the Middle East, the Western Balkans, the financial framework for the years 2007 to 2013, and the establishment of the EU's position with regard to the texts to be submitted to the WTO's General Council.
Regarding the Middle East, Minister for Foreign Affairs Ferrero-Waldner called for the Union's support for the Palestinian Prime Minister Korei, who is willing to play a substantial role in the Palestinian reform process. "Reform measures by the Palestinian National Authority are indispensable; this also applies particularly to the security services. Also, the living conditions of the people must be improved urgently. Precisely these necessities have also become obvious as a result of the most recent internal Palestinian conflicts", said Ferrero-Waldner, who added that the Road Map remains the basis for a peaceful solution of the Middle East conflict.
As for the Western Balkans, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said she was pleased that it had been possible, at Austria's instigation, to incorporate the issue of decentralisation of Kosovo into the conclusions of the Council, and, furthermore, to enshrine the main goal of decentralisation, i.e. the protection of minorities, in this context. "Decentralisation and the protection of minorities", Minister for Foreign Affairs Ferrero-Waldner said, "are of decisive importance for the future of a multi-ethnic Kosovo. I am therefore all the more pleased that this topic has now also come to be regarded as important within the contact group. This was demonstrated during a seminar on decentralisation and minority protection in Kosovo which we held at Dürnstein, Lower Austria, in mid-July. Together with the representatives of the foreign ministries of four contact group states who were present, we found out that we complement one another quite well."
As for the financial framework for the years 2007 to 2013, Ferrero-Waldner noted that Austria is sticking to her position that average EU expenditure in the coming financial period must not exceed 1% of total gross national income.