One week at work with the Balkans, a crucial year for the region

One week at work with the Balkans, a crucial year for the region

I write on my way to South-East Asia: to Bangladesh first, where I will visit one of the camps hosting the Rohingya refugees; then to Myanmar, for the Asia-Europe Ministerial meeting. I spent the last few days – after the historic decision to launch a Permanent Structured Cooperation on defence – working with our partners from the Balkans. 2018 can be a crucial year for the whole region, on its path towards the European Union. And we want to accompany them on this path with a new European Union’s strategy for the Balkans, which we will set up in February. All our partners have taken significant steps forward – steps they can now consolidate, making their progress towards the European Union irreversible. Skopje, for instance, managed to end a long political crisis and is now carrying forward important reforms. On Tuesday I met with Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov – here is the press release. On Wednesday I chaired the Stabilisation and Association Council with Albania, together with Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati. Tirana has launched some crucial reforms on justice, on the fight against corruption, organised crime and drugs trafficking. And on all foreign policy issues, the European Union and Albania are 100% on the same page. Also for these reasons, I confirmed our determination to move forward Albania’s integration process – here is the press conference after the Council. On Thursday I chaired the Stabilisation and Association Council with Serbia, together with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. With her and with President Aleksandar Vučić, the day before, I had discussed Serbia’s progress towards the European Union: the Serbian government is showing the political...
A historic day for the European Union

A historic day for the European Union

Today has been a truly historic day for the European Union: 23 European countries have signed on a “Permanent Structured Cooperation” in the field of defence. Technically it is called PESCO, in practice it is the foundation of a future European defence. Member States have agreed to work together to make European citizens more secure, to rationalise spending through joint investments in research and development for new assets, to set up joint initiatives to be more effective and efficient. Because only if we act together, can we tackle a more fragile than ever international environment. When I received the formal notification letter, signed by 23 Ministers, it was an emotional moment. The doors of change had opened a year and a half ago already, when for the first time I proposed Member States to start building a Europe of defence, as originally envisaged sixty years ago by the founding father of the European Union. We bet on the European Union’s ability to leave the ghosts of the past behind, as we face a fast changing world. And today we made it. We have shown that the Union can serve Member States’ priorities – and I hope this path can be followed also in other fields. We moved beyond old taboos, including the fear that a European defence could create competition between the EU and NATO: on the contrary, over the last years we have made our relationship with NATO even stronger. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is regularly invited to the meetings of EU Defence Ministers, and I always attend NATO Ministerials. A strong Europe can only make NATO stronger. From now on, we will discuss the first projects...
From Washington to Samarkand

From Washington to Samarkand

I write on my way back from Central Asia: in Kyrgyzstan first, for a bilateral visit, then in Uzbekistan, in Samarkand, for the annual meeting between the European Union and the Foreign Minister of five Central Asian countries. For centuries Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have been a crossroads between East and West. They still are. For our economies, as a strategic connection for international trade on the old Silk Road, and for energy. But also for our security, from Afghanistan to the fight against terrorism and the prevention of radicalisation. These countries increasingly look at Europe not only as their first market and donor, but also as a strong and reliable political partner. In Samarkand we decided to strengthen our partnership for the years to come. The European Union has encouraged a lot, and continues to encourage, the reform process that has started in all five countries, at different speeds – be it economic reform or on justice, the rule of law and civil rights. We discussed how to move forward this path towards reforms and change in all my bilateral meetings: in Bishkek with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, President-elect Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Prime Minister Sapar Isakov; in Samarkand with the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov, of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov, of Kyrgyzstan Erlan Abdyldayev, of Tajikistan Sirodjidin Aslov, and of Turkmenistan Raşit Meredow. Here is my speech in Samarkand and the final press conference. My visit to Samarkand was also the opportunity to meet again with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to talk about the nuclear deal. The European Union is determined to make sure everyone implements the agreement, which is working as certified eight times by the International Atomic Energy...
In Rome, working on European defence and cultural diplomacy

In Rome, working on European defence and cultural diplomacy

Today I am writing from Rome, after a day spent working on European defence and on our cultural diplomacy – two issues where Italy’s initiative has been particularly important. Yesterday morning I was at the lower Chamber of the Italian Parliament, with the Democratic Party and the group of Socialists and Democrats, to talk about culture as a central component of our foreign policy. Thanks to the work we have done together, the European Union’s civilian mission that we are about to launch in Iraq will count on a cultural expert – who will help Iraqi security forces preserve their cultural heritage, and tackle the trafficking of cultural goods. It is a promise turning into reality, which will then be extended also to our other missions. Then a conversation at the Institute for International Affairs (IAI) with Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti. We discussed the incredible work we have done in the last months towards a European Union of security and defence. Two thirds of European citizens understand that today’s threats are too complex for any individual country, and have to be tackled together, at the European level. Here is the video of our...
We can choose to change our times

We can choose to change our times

I write after a week in Brussels and in Germany, concluded by a European Council dealing with many important issues for the security of European citizens and the world. Starting with North Korea: the leaders of the Twenty-eight supported our decision to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang, to try and open a new channel for dialogue to end the current crisis (here are the Council conclusions). On Friday afternoon, here in Brussels, I talked about this with the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, Kang Kyung-wha (press release here). The Council also endorsed the work we are doing to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, to manage migration flows and for Africa’s development. I talked about this with journalists arriving at the Council, here. And we confirmed that by the end of the year we will launch – for the first time in our Union’s history – a Permanent structured cooperation among Member States on defence. It is the conclusion of a work we initiated almost two years ago, but also a new beginning, towards a Union that can be an even stronger force for peace and security – for Europeans and for the world. Three other important things from the last few days. Today, in Geneva, the European Union hosted with Kuwait a conference to support Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. We announced an extra 30 million in aid to Rohingyas in Bangladesh – here is the press release. I discussed the situation in Myanmar with Aung San Suu Kyi last Thursday – also ahead of the Europe-Asia summit to be hold there in November (press release). Last Tuesday I was in Germany, where I received...
Working to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran

Working to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran

These are days of intense work to preserve the deal on Iran’s nuclear program – which is essential for the our own European security, for our region’s security, and for the global non-proliferation system. Last Friday, after talking to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and after listening to President Trump’s speech, I recalled the European Union’s full support to the deal. It is a deal that no country can “terminate” unilaterally: it is not a bilateral treaty, but a Resolution of the United Nations’ Security Council. Here is my press conference on Friday, with my remarks and the Q&A with the press. This morning I spoke to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Director, Yukiya Amano: he confirmed once again that Iran is fulfilling all its commitments related to the deal, and that the IAEA continues to have full access to all sites it asks to inspect for its work of verification and monitoring. Here is what I told journalists this morning. Today in Luxembourg, together with the 28 EU Foreign Ministers, we confirmed our shared resolve to preserve the deal. For this reason, I will be in Washington at the beginning of November, meeting with members of the Administration and of Congress. Here is my press conference in Luxembourg on Iran, the Q&A with journalists and our joint statement on the deal with Iran. On the very same issue of non-proliferation, at today’s Foreign Affairs Council we also approved new European sanctions on North Korea: we want to put maximum pressure on Pyongyang and try to open the space for a mediation (here are the Council Conclusions on North Korea). I discussed North Korea, Iran and non-proliferation also at a conference on...