The informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers – the traditional "Gymnich" meeting – takes place in 2007 in the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, during Germany's Presidency of the EU Council.
The first meeting of this kind was organized in 1974 by the then German Foreign Minister Walter Scheel of the time in Schloss Gymnich near Bonn. Since then there have been huge changes. The division of Europe is now history, the number of foreign ministers has grown from nine to 27 and, at this year's final working lunch, they will be joined by their colleagues from the candidate countries Croatia, Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
In keeping with the tradition of the Gymnich meetings, the topics on the agenda have been limited so as to allow plenty of time to examine issues in depth and in a relaxed atmosphere. No formal decisions are taken at Gymnich meetings. On the first day, the foreign ministers will look at the situation in the Western Balkans, and in Kosovo in particular, as well as discussing the future development of the European Neighbourhood Policy and, in connection with this, the question of the EU's future relations with Belarus. On the second day, discussions will focus on recent developments in the Middle East peace process and on Iran.
Below, you will find more detailed information about these issues.
Now that the proposal on the future status of Kosovo drawn up by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari has been submitted to the UN Security Council, the process concerning Kosovo's status has entered its decisive phase.
President Ahtisaari's proposal builds on over 12 months of intensive direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina that started in February 2006, and which produced no agreement on key issues. Ahtisaari's proposal is designed to foster the building of a multi-ethnic, democratic society in Kosovo based on the rule of law. The proposal lays the foundation for sustainable economic and political development of Kosovo.
We Europeans in particular hope that the resolution of the final status of Kosovo will contribute to stability throughout the entire Western Balkans region. However, if the two parties are to accept a solution, the international community must present a united front. The EU in particular is called upon to play a key part here.
European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
The ENP is the EU's key foreign policy instrument for promoting stability and economic growth in its neighbouring countries and for securing and expanding long-term ties between these countries and the EU.
Intensifying the ENP is one of the priorities of the German Presidency of the EU Council. At the European Council in December, the German Presidency was given the task of drawing up a report on the ENP in time for the European Council in June. In addition to cooperating separately with each individual country in the European Neighbourhood, which is still an important approach, the EU is to focus more on regional cooperation (within the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, for example).
The EU Member States are agreed that the ENP should be strengthened. During this process, the ENP must remain geographically coherent; the relations to be maintained and intensified with our neighbours to the south are just as important as those with our neighbours to the east. Furthermore, the ENP has no bearing on the question of EU enlargement.
At their working session on 31 March, the foreign ministers will focus on the peace process in the Middle East. This working session will examine recent developments: the new Palestinian coalition government has taken up office, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week completed her third Middle East trip this year, and the Arab League relaunched its peace initiative at a summit on 28 and 29 March. In its most recent statement of 21 March, the Middle East Quartet – made up of the European Union, the United Nations, the United States of America and the Russian Federation – confirmed that it would be meeting again soon in the region.
At the final working lunch on Saturday, the foreign ministers will discuss the European Union's future relations with Iran. On 24 March, the Security Council of the United Nations adopted Resolution 1747. On the same day, the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and the US, backed by High Representative Javier Solana, reaffirmed their offer of negotiations to Iran. The EU foreign ministers will not, however, be restricting their discussion to the nuclear programme. They will also discuss the case of the British Navy personnel currently detained in Iran.
In keeping with the Gymnich tradition, the candidate countries will also be invited to this final working lunch.
Despite a ceasefire and peace agreement, the armed conflict and raids on the civilian population in Darfur continue. As a consequence, the international community intends to strengthen the African Union peacekeeping mission there by providing additional UN troops. Despite intensive diplomatic efforts, the Sudanese government has refused to agree to a stronger mission. In light of this, the foreign ministers in Bremen intend to exchange views on the situation in Darfur and on possible action.
The political, economic and social situation in Zimbabwe is getting noticeably worse. The Member States of the European Union are particularly concerned about human rights violations and interference with the rule of law. The foreign ministers will discuss the current situation in light of the recent violent clashes.
Please find further information on this website: http://www.eu2007.de/en/Meetings_Calendar/Dates/March/0330-RAA1.html