Italy’s efforts in defence of religious minorities have been rewarded. Under a proposal submitted by Italy to the EU Foreign Affairs Council, the European Union will monitor and report annually on the level of religious freedom throughout the world. The Italian proposal was espoused by “at least ten partners”. Italy’s success was reported by Secretary of State Alfredo Mantica, who represented the Government in Brussels. Under the proposal, “the degree of religious freedom recorded through the monitoring operation will be evaluated politically”, explained Mantica. What started as a joint Italian-Austrian proposal was supported by other countries including Hungary, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands.
Patents: Italy will not raise the question during the European Summit of Heads of State and Government on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 December. It will, however, place it on the leaders’ table at the summit scheduled for 4 February 2011 on energy and economic issues. Italy, as Mantica pointed out, intends to wait for the EU Court of Justice ruling, which should be issued by the end of January.
Ivory Coast: The Council decided to adopt a visa ban and an assets freeze against the out-going President, Laurent Gbagbo, in view of his refusal to recognise the victory of his rival, Alassane Ouatarra, in the presidential election of 28 November 2010. Italy, reported Mantica, “did not take any stance against this decision”.
Middle East: The Council confirmed that “The EU remains ready to develop further its bilateral relations with Israel within the framework defined at the Association Council of June 2009”. However it noted, with regret, that Israel has not extended the moratorium on the settlements. The EU is ready to contribute to a negotiated solution within the 12 months set by the Quartet, i.e. by the end of 2011.
As regards the future Palestinian state, the Council welcome the World Bank’s recent assessment that “if the Palestinian Authority maintains its current performance […] it is well positioned for the establishment of a State at any point in the near future”. The Council reiterated “its readiness, when appropriate, to recognise a Palestinian state”.
Enlargement dossier: Montenegro is working to obtain official EU candidate status at this week’s Summit of Heads of State and Government (16–17 December 2010). The EU Foreign Ministers will give their go-ahead for candidate status to be considered.