In memory of Shimon Peres, hope builder

In memory of Shimon Peres, hope builder

I write on my way back from Jerusalem, where we honoured the memory of one of the greatest men of peace of our age, Shimon Peres. I met him for the first time in 2002, together with a small delegation of socialist youth organisations – it was the same trip when I also met Yasser Arafat. I was struck  by his smile, his warmth, his humour, his depth and levity, his willingness to listen, to talk, to share with us his thoughts and his experience. A Foreign Minister of Israel, with kids who had grown up dreaming peace after the Oslo agreements. The last time I met him he was about to leave the Presidency. He talked with enthusiasm of his plans for the future, the great projects he had with young Arabs and Israelis to foster hope, to strengthen the readiness to live together, and the joy to live together. The last time we spoke, a few months ago, he explained to me how these plans where moving forward, and how to support them. And also, obviously, we discussed how to shake life back into a peace process that seems to be gone, between Israel and the Palestinians. He always encouraged me to stand my ground, to keep looking for a way forward, for a step – even a small one – that would reverse the trend and reopen channels for dialogue, for peace, for hope. Little big steps that could lead to the two States – even when everyone says that “the conditions are not there.” Creating the conditions is our job. This is what I discussed last night, at length, with Benjamin...
Towards a Europe of Defence

Towards a Europe of Defence

Today I am writing from Bratislava, where I chaired an informal meeting of Defence Ministers that was also joined by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Our European Union faces huge challenges, which call for us to strengthen our common security and defence. Here is the first press point I had this morning, explaining the sense of today’s work. We will move forward, starting with the Global Strategy I presented last June and turning it into action. By mid-November I will set up an implementation plan, with all Member States’ contribution, to be put forward at the formal Council of Defence Ministers. There is so much we can do, and I see there is a lot we are already willing to put in practice – as today’s meeting confirms (here is the press conference at the end of the meeting). The second pillar of our action, besides the plan I am presenting, will be the Defence Action Plan on research and industry. We are working on it inside the European Commission, and it will be ready by the end of the year. Finally, we focused on the European Union’s strategic partnership with NATO. Together with Stoltenberg we have started to work on the implementation of the Joint Declaration we signed in Warsaw on July 8th. With that Declaration we committed to cooperate on maritime security and migration, but also on hybrid and cyber threats. The Alliance can only benefit from a stronger European Union, as Stoltenberg said very clearly today. There is no contradiction, no duplication: we can make NATO stronger. Here is my press point together with...