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Europe

EU Foreign Ministers Wrap Up Meeting on Broad Range of Issues

The EU agreed to step up sanctions against Zimbabwe, but failed to agree on sending combat troops to DR Congo requested by the UN. Turkey's prospects for joining the EU anytime soon also look dim.

The EU flag is mirrored in the glasswork of the EU Council headquarters in Brussels

Foreign ministers prepared the groundwork for a summit of EU leaders later this week.

The EU meeting of foreign ministers on Monday prepared the groundwork for a summit among European leaders later this week, covering a range of external and internal matters.

European Union foreign ministers issued a statement saying they were "very concerned" by the massive humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but failed to agree on sending a peacekeeping force that had been requested by UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon.

No EU nation has been willing to lead the mission in the former Belgian colony. Both Britain and Germany are strongly opposed to sending combat troops, even though the EU has reservists trained to be deployed on short notice.

The EU member states however are prepared to provide an additional 45.6 million Euros ($58 million) in humanitarian relief.

Increased sanctions against Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, the cholera epidemic and calls for strongman Robert Mugabe to step down were also on the agenda.

Children in Zimbabwe collect water samples in fight against cholera epidemic

Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic requires a global response

The European Union decided to step up sanctions against the Zimbabwe government, adding 11 names to a list of those banned from the 27 nation bloc's ports of entry.

British foreign secretary David Miliband described those on the persona non grata list as "middle ranking regime members", increasing the number of Mugabe cronies banned to 179. President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace have also been denied visas to enter the EU. Those on the watch list will also have any of their EU assets frozen.

French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who was once a medical doctor an co-founder of the aid organization Doctors Without Borders, had called on the World Health Organization to contain the cholera outbreak that has claimed countless lives. Kouchner pointed out that cholera, which has been eradicated in the West, is one of those contagious diseases that require global intervention.

Kosovo, Somalia, Pakistan

The ministers also debated the EU's Eulex mission in Kosovo which replaces UN administration on Tuesday, the bloc's anti-piracy naval mission off the coast of Somalia which also begins operations this week, as well as finding a common approach to dealing with Pakistan in the aftermath of the recent Mumbai terror attacks.

Composite image of Turkish flag inside EU flag, symbolizing Turkey's EU aspirations

Turkey's hopes of joining the EU anytime soon were dampened

The final item on the EU agenda had to do with internal matters on how far to proceed with membership talks in eventually admitting Turkey and Croatia into the European bloc.

On Monday the EU ministers dampened Turkey's hopes of joining their club, saying that Ankara had not made enough progress on the reforms needed for membership.

Turkey's hopes to join EU any time soon are dashed

They said in a statement that Turkey needs to step up efforts to fight government corruption, effectively protect the rights of its citizens, enact a zero-tolerance policy on torture, guarantee freedom of expression and of religion, and protect minorities, including women and children.

The ministers also slammed Ankara for failing to allow Cypriot vessels access to its ports, which was a key condition for accession negotiations to proceed. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied the northern part of the Mediterranean island in response to a Greek Cypriot coup. Only the Greek part of Cyprus is an EU member and the northern third of the country is only recognized by Turkey.

Membership talks for Croatia are on the right track, but Zagreb still has some way to go with political reforms, EU governments agreed.

France and Germany however pointed out that the EU is suffering from enlargement fatigue and cannot absorb any new members until all member states ratify the Lisbon reform treaty which had been scuppered by the Irish.

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