EU and Asean join hands to fight terror, trafficking
By Sonia K

NUREMBERG (dpa) - Foreign ministers of the European Union and the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) agreed Thursday to back the launch of talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two blocs.

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Brunei's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, attended the meeting.

In the "Nuremberg Declaration on an EU-ASEAN Enhanced Partnership", the two sides also pledged to cooperate closely on fighting terrorism, human trafficking and organised crime.

In the document issued after two days of talks in the German city of Nuremberg, the two blocs committed to support talks on an FTA based on the platform of the World Trade Organisation. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the stalled Doha round of WTO negotiations.

The 27-member EU and the 10-member Asean said they would cooperate closely on combating terrorism, trafficking in human beings, drug trafficking, sea piracy, arms smuggling, money laundering, cyber crime and related transnational crime.

On energy and climate change, the two sides agreed on the need for "stable, effective and transparent global energy markets" and pledged to promote energy security "through an EU-Asean policy dialogue on energy".

They also called for the swift implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.

Without mentioning Myanmar's membership of Asean - a controversial point for the EU - the two blocs committed themselves to "promoting universal values of justice, democracy and human rights" in line with the UN Charter.

On the sidelines of the meeting, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner called on Myanmar to improve its human rights record and to release Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since 2003.

The two blocs also committed themselves to cooperating on disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

EU foreign policy head Javier Solana said he had been "positively impressed" by the contribution of Asean countries to the meeting.

"We discussed the most important international issues... There was a sense of commonality of thinking, not only in trade and economics, but also in politics," he said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who co-chaired the meeting with his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, said the meeting had discussed the Middle East, the Iraq conflict, Iran's nuclear programme, North Korea and other issues of international concern.

The talks were the 16th since links were established between the two blocs 30 years ago. The meeting took place under the auspices of the German presidency of the EU. (16th March 2007)