- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jan. 28 (UPI) — Foreign ministers from the European Union and the Association of South East Asian Nations agreed Tuesday to step up the fight against international terrorism.

The ministers said their countries would share sensitive information, strengthen links between law enforcement agencies and support the work of the International Criminal Court.

The ministers described terrorism as a "profound threat to stability, peace and security in our regions and beyond."

Both European and Southeast Asian states have been hit by terrorist attacks since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Last year, a bomb in a Balinese nightclub killed nearly 200 people, mostly foreign tourists. Authorities in Paris and London have recently conducted raids that they say revealed a network of active terrorist cells in Europe.

Foreign ministers said the fight against terrorism must be channeled through the United Nations and "conducted in accordance with general norms of international law, including respect for human rights and humanitarian law."

However, human rights groups slammed the European Union for not practicing what it preached regarding Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

The Southeast Asian country is taking part in its first EU-ASEAN foreign ministers summit, having been barred from previous meetings because of its human rights record.

A visa ban dating to 1997 is meant to prevent senior members of the Burmese junta entering the European Union, but the measure was waived to allow the country's Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win to attend this week's Brussels meeting.

Gabriele Unguen, a campaigner in Amnesty International's EU office, said: "The European Union has to explain how it can possibly secure respect for human rights in a country that denies freedom of expression, imprisons political activists and violates basic social and political rights."

External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten told journalists that although the European Union found the political climate in Yangon "profoundly troubling," dialogue with ASEAN states "should not be held hostage by concerns about the situation in Burma/Myanmar."

Commission officials admit that trade concerns have played a part in the recent rapprochement between the European Union and ASEAN.

When the European Union enlarges to take in 10 Central and Eastern European countries next year, the two blocs will have a combined population of 1 billion. Trade between the 10-nation group — which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — and the European Union totaled almost $100 billion in 2001, but both sides are keen to boost commerce.

In the long term, a free trade area between the two clubs has been mooted, but with the next round of international trade talks rapidly approaching, ministers settled on a joint commitment to promote further market-opening within the World Trade Organization.

At the end of the two-day meeting, EU and ASEAN foreign ministers also called on North Korea to resume its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Authority and reverse its decision to withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty, a key international arms accord.

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