I write after two weeks in Africa, the Gulf and in Strasbourg, for the first plenary of the new European Parliament.
After my trip to Central Asia and the summit in Ukraine two weeks ago, I arrived in Burkina Faso for the fifth annual meeting with the Foreign Ministers of the five Sahel countries. These countries want to be stronger and more autonomous: it is our European interest to help build a stronger and more stable Sahel, so we will continue to support them both on economic development and on security issues. In Burkina I announced an extra 138 million euros in support to the G5 Sahel Joint military force – here is the press conference.
The meeting with the G5 was also the opportunity for a bilateral visit to Burkina: there I met with President Roch Marc Kabore, Prime Minister Christophe Dabire and Foreign Minister Alpha Barry. But I also visited the French-Arab school El Bayane, which is financed by the European Union – because good education for children is the foundation of any strong country.
From Burkina to Mali. On top of my meetings with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the government and Foreign Minister Tiébilé Dramé, I visited the central region of the country, where security is particularly fragile. There I met a group of local leaders and civil society representatives. It is up to the Malians to build a new era in the history of their country – an era of national dialogue and fight against terrorist – but we Europeans are ready to support them with all means at our disposal. Here is my press conference in Mali.
Then off to Niger, the first African country that I visited at the beginning of my mandate, five years ago: these have been five years of extraordinary cooperation on security and development, within international organisations, and also on the management of migratory flows. So, after my meeting with President Mahamadou Issoufou and the government, I visited a center run by the International Organisation for Migration, for migrant women who have been saved along the desert routed and have received help thanks to our support. I heard from them terrible stories of exploitation and of suffering along the route. All of them will go back to their communities with our support, and all of them told me that, had they known what awaited them on the route, they would have never left home. Here is what I told journalists at the end of my visit. In Niamey I also visited the G5 Sahel Joint military forces’ headquarters for the central region, together with the Minister of Defence, and I handed over to them a first delivery of military equipment, particularly anti-mine equipment.
My last African stop was the Central African Republic, a country that is trying to put an end to years of conflict, after an historic peace deal was signed earlier this year. Together with President Faustine Archange Touadera, we inaugurated a new training center for Central African military staff, as part of our military mission to the country. We also witnessed the creation of a committee formed by civil society representatives and militias, which will work on the implementation of the peace agreement. And we met a group of women, to listen to their requests and their aspirations. Here is the video.
Back from Africa, last weekend I was in the Gulf, in Iraq and Kuwait. I hadn’t been to Bagdad since the end of 2014, and in these years the country has come a very long way – towards peace, security and reconciliation among all parts of the Iraqi society. In a moment when tensions are rising across the region, it is essential to keep supporting Iraq and to prevent new escalations – and this is why we support the Iraqi proposal of a regional conference for the Gulf. Here is the press conference with Foreign Minister Mohamad Ali Alhakim. In Bagdad I also met with President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and the Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed al-Halbousi with a delegation of Members of the parliament, including representatives of women MPs.
In Kuwait I inaugurated the new European Union’s embassy – a sign of our presence in the region, and of closeness to a country that is a voice of wisdom and a mediator among Gulf nations. And I also met with the Emir, Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah. Here is my speech, together with Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah.
Last Monday, on my return to Brussels, I updated the European Union’s Foreign Ministers on my trip. With them I discussed mostly the nuclear deal with Iran: it is essential that Iran goes back to full compliance, while on our side we are strengthening the instrument to support legitimate trade exchanges with the country (INSTEX). We also discussed Iraq, migration, the Central African Republic, and we met together with Moldova’s Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu. Here is what I told journalists at the beginning of the day, and the final press conference. At the Foreign Affairs Council I also had the chance to congratulate Josep Borrell, who has been nominated my successor by the European Council.
The same issues were also at the centre of the European Parliament’s plenary in Strasbourg: the tensions in the Gulf and Iran deal, the situation in Moldova, but also the diplomatic work for Venezuela and the three years of our Global Strategy for foreign and security policy. On Tuesday morning, on the floor of the Parliament, I had the pleasure to hug Ursula von der Leyen on her election as the new President of the European Commission.