At work on the Balkans, Ukraine and the Middle East

At work on the Balkans, Ukraine and the Middle East

I write at the end of a week spent in Brussels – at work mostly on the Balkans, Ukraine and the Middle East.

My week started with the Association Council with Ukraine: together with Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, we talked about the situation in Crimea and the Sea of Azov, but also about the economic and anti-corruption reforms that the government is carrying on with the European Union’s support. Here is the press conference after the meeting, here is the press release.

Then, a series of meetings with our partners in the Balkans. On Wednesday I hosted an informal lunch with the six leaders from the region: we discussed the work ahead to consolidate their path towards the European Union. They all confirmed their support to last summer’s agreement between Greece and the future Northern Macedonia, and to the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina. I also met separately with Skopje’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Montenegro’s President Milo Dukanovic, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj for the Association Council with Kosovo (press release here, and here is the statement on Pristina’s decision to change the Kosovo Security Forces’ mandate), and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic for the Association Council with Serbia (press conference here).

On Thursday I chaired the Association Council with Egypt – this is the press conference with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri: we discussed cooperation among our countries, but also – and mainly – the situation in the region, in particular tensions in Israel and Palestine. It is a delicate moment for the Middle East: on the one hand, the attempts to bring an end to the war in Yemen (here is my statement on the agreement reached in Stockholm for a ceasefire and an exchange of prisoners); on the other hand, the new phase of the Syrian conflict – and here is how I commented on the possible new Turkish offensive in the north-east of the country.

Two other important things: on Tuesday I opened the annual conference on non-proliferation and disarmament, organised by a consortium of European think-tanks working on these issues. In this moment in time, there is a return to the temptation of new arms races and to the illusion that more weapons bring more security. But in today’s world – so chaotic and violent – the only way to guarantee European and global security is to invest in international agreements for non-proliferation and disarmament. Here is my speech.

On Wednesday I wished happy holidays, via video-conference, to all our civilian and military missions – European men and women in uniform, who work everyday for our security and for peace.