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EU Foreign Affairs Council – Human rights alarm in Ukraine. Marines: charges unreasonable, says Bonino

The European Union’s foreign ministers have reiterated their alarm over the human rights situation in Ukraine, including violence, cases of missing persons, torture and intimidation. This was the comment in the Conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council that took place in Brussels today, 10 February 2014, with the participation of Foreign Minister Emma Bonino. The Conclusions contain no mention of sanctions, but the ministers called on all sides to refrain from violence. “Any demonstrations should be pursued by peaceful means”, while “the current atmosphere of impunity […] must be addressed”.

Association Agreement when Ukraine is ready

The Council repeated its commitment to sign an Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, as soon as Ukraine is ready. At the same time, the Council expressed “its conviction that this Agreement does not constitute the final goal in EU-Ukraine cooperation”. The 28 foreign ministers declared that “the EU is ready to further pursue its efforts with the international community and international financial institutions to assist Ukraine, in line with well-established conditions, to find a sustainable way out of its difficult economic situation”. No agreement was reached, however, on a concrete offer to counterbalance the Russian one of 15 billion dollars. The EU “will remain actively engaged with Ukraine and maintain its high level presence, in order to assist the stakeholders in their efforts to stabilise the situation and to bring Ukraine out of the current crisis”.

EU mission in Central African Republic

The Council officially established the EU military operation (EUFOR RCA) in the Central African Republic. Today’s decision provides the legal basis for the operation and is another step towards its rapid deployment. The aim is to provide temporary support to help create a safe and secure environment in the Bangui region, protect the population at risk and create channels for humanitarian access, with a view to handing over to African partners.

EU-Cuba: green light to new stage in relations

The Council adopted negotiating directives for a political dialogue and co-operation agreement with the Republic of Cuba. The Brussels-Havana relationship was previously framed by the 1996 “Common Position”. The aim at this new stage is to support reform and modernisation in Cuba and further strengthen the progress made thus far on the fundamental freedoms and human rights.

Marines: terrorism charge utterly unreasonable

In Brussels, Minister Bonino told her European colleagues of Italy’s disappointment over the accusation formulated by India’s Attorney General, under the anti-terrorism laws, against Navy riflemen Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone. An accusation that is “wholly unacceptable, because it would mean that Italy is a terrorist country”, said Bonino. She hoped that next week the Indian Supreme Court will “acknowledge the unacceptable and utterly unreasonable nature of this charge”.

“The marines are not terrorists”, but were officers carrying out their duties. So we are disputing this position with great firmness in the courts. “It is unthinkable that a country that in a few months will assume the EU Presidency could be described as terrorist”. Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for foreign policy, herself defined as “unacceptable” the charge formulated under the anti-terrorism law.

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