Commissioner: EU-Korea relations ‘strong’Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union Commissioner for External Relations and Neighborhood Policy, visited Seoul on Wednesday for a two-day visit. It was her first visit to Korea in her role of EU commissioner.
At a press conference at Lotte Hotel on Thursday, Ms. Ferrero-Waldner, a native of Salzburg, Austria, said that even though economic relations between Korea and the EU are strong, she believes that it has “even much more potential once remaining obstacles have been resolved.” She did not elaborate on what those barriers are. The EU is the largest foreign investor in Korea, the nation’s fourth-largest trading partner and its second largest export destination.
During the visit, Ms. Ferrero-Waldner had meetings with President Roh Moo-hyun, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, Vice Minister for Unification Shin Un-sang, and business representatives here. She also attended the inauguration ceremony of the EU Center at Seoul National University on Thursday, aimed to enhance cooperation between Korea and the EU in education and culture and to enhance understanding between the two. The EU Center will receive European Community funding of nearly 800,000 euros ($980,151) over a three-and-a-half-year period.
“EU-South Korea relations are developing well under the Framework Agreement on Trade and Cooperation signed in 1996 and in recent years new areas of cooperation have been launched, including the participation of South Korea in ITER [International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor] and the EU’s satellite navigation system, Galileo,” she said.
When asked about the possibilities of a free trade agreement between the EU and Korea, Ms. Ferrero-Waldner said the EU will not consider negotiating before the Doha Development Agenda of the World Trade Organization shows a clear result. “WTO remains our key priority,” she said, adding that it would give the greatest benefit for all involved bodies. She added that nothing should be done to put the DDA project at risk.
After leaving Korea, Ms. Ferrero-Waldner headed to Vietnam and Japan.
Asked about the recent territorial disputes between Korea and Japan over the Dokdo islets and surrounding waters, Ms. Ferrero-Waldner said the EU hopes to see reconciliation similar to what happened in Europe occur in this region. She said the tensions between the two nations should be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
by Park Sung-ha