Symbolic passing of the baton to Defence MInister Kääriäinen
Defence Minister Günther Platter handed over the EU Presidency to his Finnish counterpart Seppo Kääriäinen in Helsinki today (Wednesday). "The Security and Defence Policy is an essential driver of European integration", emphasised Platter as he passed on the baton. "Together, we are working for a peaceful Europe."
During the two-day visit, the ministers discussed the priorities for the European Defence Policy. "Civilian-military coordination is a milestone in the European Security and Defence Policy", Platter declared. The joint initiative by the three consecutive Presidency countries (UK, Austria and Finland) had improved the EU's crisis management appreciably. When reacting to natural disasters, the first hours were particularly crucial. "With the civil-military cell in the EU Military Staff, we have an important coordination point at our disposal."
"Günther Platter played a key role in organising the EU mission in Congo", stressed Kääriäinen. Stabilisation throughout the election process represents an essential task for the EU during the forthcoming Finnish EU Presidency, according to the Finnish Defence Minister. "Our efforts support the process of democratisation in Africa."
The Western Balkans will also be a priority over the next few months. "The EU will be judged on how we guarantee stability in this region", said Platter. The imminent elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina will therefore be analysed thoroughly in order to draw conclusions for the EUFOR-Althea EU military operation deploying 7,000 European soldiers. "The ongoing Kosovo status talks also underline our great interest in this region", the two ministers stressed.
"Austria and Finland are cooperating admirably. This applies not only to the EU Presidency, but also to military operations in which we are working hand in hand", said Platter. For the EUFOR/Althea mission, Austrian Brigadier Karl Pronhagl took over the leadership of the Task Force North from Finnish Brigadier Mika Peltonen last December.
After his meeting with the Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhannen, Platter symbolically handed over a wooden baton to his counterpart Seppo Kääriäinen. "Together, we are working for a peaceful Europe." The baton bears the logos of the Austrian and Finnish EU Presidencies as well as the EU flag.