Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/syria : Association Agreement with Damascus to Be Approved in Autumn

Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/syria : Association Agreement with Damascus to Be Approved in Autumn

Article excerpt

EU foreign affairs ministers are finally set to approve the EU-Syria association agreement this autumn, perhaps during their meeting of 26 October in Luxembourg. The agreement should have been on the ministers' table during the General Affairs Council (GAC), on 15 September, but the point was removed from the agenda at the request of the Netherlands, which is maintaining a parliamentary reservation due to the lack of democratisation of Bashar al-Assad's regime. According to diplomatic sources, the Netherlands considers that the wording of the text does not make it possible to suspend the agreement in the event of a deterioration of the human rights situation. Nevertheless, according to these sources, there is a willingness to quickly find a solution to this issue.

"There are some reservations, but I am confident that in the near future we will reach an agreement," declared External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, on 4 September in Stockholm. "Engaging Syria in peace negotiations in the Middle East is vital and the association agreement must be seen in this context. It is not a gift, but a contractual relationship with obligations," she added.

Technical negotiations for the agreement between the European Commission and Syria had already lasted seven years, from 1998 to 2004, due to Syria's reluctance to economic opening-up and the desire of Westerners to include a clause for the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Initialled in October 2004, the agreement had not subsequently been examined by the Council for three years due to political reasons regarding Syria's trusteeship over Lebanon and the assassination, in 2005, of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. …

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