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* The European Union remains firmly committed to long-term partnership with Afghanistan. Sustained development will require the maintenance of security. With that in mind, the finalisation of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States of America is vital and will provide the basis for ongoing international support to increase the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces. The continued provision of significant international development assistance to the Afghan people across the country is dependent on a conducive security environment.



* The EU appreciates the progress made in preparing for the presidential and provincial elections, including the important roles played by the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission. It will be vital that the Afghan-led and owned electoral process is inclusive, transparent and credible leading to a legitimate outcome.



* The EU is concerned by the decline in economic confidence and the projected slowdown in economic growth, in particular the impact on reduced employment opportunities, especially for Afghan youth. The Government of Afghanistan needs to urgently take steps to strengthen investors' confidence, increase revenue generation and combat corruption.



* The EU remains concerned about human rights in Afghanistan, in particular the situation of women and girls. Urgent action is required to improve the full implementation of the statutory measures relating to women's rights.



* The EU will continue to support Afghan efforts to strengthen civilian policing and the justice sector beyond 2014. The EU assistance currently provided through development programmes and through the EU Police Mission to Afghanistan (EUPOL) should, by the end of 2016 and based on a proper transition of tasks to relevant actors, be consolidated in the context of a clearly defined comprehensive approach, taking into account the context post 2014. The Council notes that a strategic review of EUPOL Afghanistan is under discussion and looks forward to a decision on its new mandate beyond 2014.



* The EU calls on all political forces in the country to support a credible peace process, in which civil society is able to play a full part, that eschews violence and any link with terrorist groups and respects the Afghan Constitution, including the rights of women.



Press release with Council Conclusions on Afghnaistan - Foreign Affairs Council meeting - Brussels, 20 January 2014                Council conclusions on Afghanistan 20 01 2014