Developments in the European security and defence policy area are a regular theme for discussion among EU Foreign Ministers, both meeting collectively at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council and in bilateral contacts. I most recently met with the Foreign Ministers of the other EU member states and accession states at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 26 and 27 January.
A particular issue discussed at this meeting was the theme of conflict prevention, which is an integral part of European security and defence policy. The council noted the Irish Presidency's ideas in the area of conflict prevention which include, among other aspects, an increased focus on early warning leading to early preventive action and on longer term conflict prevention strategies drawing on the full range of tools at the EU's disposal. The council also discussed Ireland's intention, as Presidency, to submit a report to the European Council in June 2004 on the implementation of the EU Programme for the Prevention of Violent Conflicts.
I have also recently discussed European security and defence policy at a number of bilateral meetings with my EU colleagues. I have taken these opportunities to inform my colleagues on Ireland's Presidency priorities in this area. In this regard, an important priority is to facilitate preparatory work for a possible EU follow-on mission to the current UN authorised, NATO led mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Another priority of the Irish Presidency will be to facilitate the ongoing balanced development of both the EU's military and civilian capabilities for crisis management.
I expect to discuss these and other issues relating to European security and defence policy at upcoming meetings of the General Affairs and External Relations Council.