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Europe

EU to Double Number of Informal Foreign Ministers' Meetings

European Union foreign ministers should hold four informal meetings per year instead of two, the ministers agreed at such a meeting in the sun-drenched mediaeval French town of Avignon.

Avignon, France

The most recent meeting of EU foreign ministers was held in Avignon

"We have decided that there will be two (informal meetings) per presidency and per half year, and the next one will be held in Paris," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who chaired the talks in the French town of Avignon, said on Friday, Sept. 5.

The EU's ministerial meetings are chaired by each of the bloc's 27 member states in turn, with presidencies rotating every six months.

Ever since 1974, foreign ministers have held one informal meeting per presidency, on top of the usual half-dozen formal sessions that they hold. The series is named "Gymnich," after the German castle where the first one was convened.

Schloss Gymnich

The first meeting was held in Gymnich Castle near the former German capital of Bonn

Kouchner said that the second Gymnich of the French presidency will be held in Paris, and hinted that it would take place before the US election on Nov. 4.

The announcement to double the Gymnichs is likely to be welcomed by ministers, since the meetings are, by tradition, held in a prestigious resort in the host country, and are not expected to arrive at any formal decisions.

However, the decision could well prove to be a headache for future presidencies, who will now have to fit an extra meeting of 27 foreign ministers in among the dozen informal meetings, two summits and several dozen formal ministerial sessions that they already have to hold in a six-month period.

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