I write after a week that was particularly dense with meetings. It started in Brussels, for the NATO ministerial, then Bonn for the G20, and Munich for the Security Conference. The message I gathered, in all the bilateral meetings I had, is that the world looks at the European Union as a strong, reliable, cooperative and indispensable partner. A much stronger one than we usually realise. And an even more indispensable partner in dangerous and confused times, when rules are too often perceived as a constraint for some, not as a guarantee for all.
The European Union is a point of reference when talking about peace, multilateralism, development, rights, free and fair trade. But also when talking about security – for our military and civilian missions around the world, and for cooperation with NATO. And more. It would be an illusion to believe that the challenges ahead of us can be faced with military force only. So the European Union invests in development, in the promotion of human rights, in education, in policies against climate change. We invest in strong societies, not in strong men: it is much more effective to bring real stability. This is not “philanthropy,” these are not just high-minded sentiments: it is a rational investment in our own security. This is what I told the Munich Security Conference, yesterday morning.
Inequalities create instability and frailty – this is what we discussed at the G20 in Bonn. In the past, we could talk about what we could do “for” Africa; today, we must understand what we can do together, “with” Africa. We are partners for peace and security, for democracy and rights, for sustainable development, for managing migration.
And this commitment to partnership calls for civil society and entrepreneurs to step in. I talked about it in a meeting with Bill Gates, this week in Brussels. We discussed how to strengthen cooperation among the European institutions, the no-profit sector and the business sector: this is the way to create a truly inclusive growth with benefits for all, starting with the weakest in our societies.
The objective of strong and democratic societies is the compass in our relations with many fragile countries. Such as Afghanistan: in Munich I signed, in the presence of President Ashraf Ghani, a Cooperation agreement for partnership and development (here is our statement with more details).
The same spirit of cooperation defines all our relationships in the world – and the world looks at us as a reliable partner. This is true for our neighbours in the Balkans: in Munich I met with the Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić and Kosovo’s President Hasim Thaçi. For Eastern Europe: in Munich I met with Georgia’s President Giorgi Kvirikashvili. For the Mediterranean region: this week, in Brussels, I hosted Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, and in Munich I met again with Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al Serraj. It is also true for small countries looking at the European Union as a natural friend, such as San Marino and Iceland: this week in Brussels I welcomed their Foreign Ministers, Nicola Renzi and Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson.
In the last few days our dialogue intensified with other interlocutors, too. Russia, for instance: the Munich Security Conference was the opportunity for a long meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We discussed the situation in the eastern part of Ukraine, where the full implementation of the Mink agreements is still very remote; and we discussed the dossiers we work together on, from Syria to the Middle East, from the nuclear deal with Iran to Afghanistan (here is my statement on the meeting).
It was also a week of intense dialogue with our Asian partners: I met again with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Republic of Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Bying-Se, India’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mobashar Jawed Akbar, and the President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev.
Our conversations with the other side of the Atlantic, starting with the United States, also went on, after my visit in Washington last week: I saw Secretary of Defence James Mattis in Brussels, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Bonn, and tomorrow I will welcome Vicepresident Mike Pence in Brussels, for his first visit to the European institutions. I talked about our relations with the US in an interview with the LENA media group, here are the Spanish, German and French versions (on El Pais, Die Welt, Le Soir).
When we European talk about Transatlantic relations, we don’t just mean the United States. This week we made our ties with Canada even deeper, with the adoption by the European Parliament of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the visit of Justin Trudeau (I also discussed about it in Bonn with Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland). This week I also worked on our cooperation with Brazil Mexico and Argentina, with Foreign Ministers Jose Serra, Luis Videgaray and Susana Malcorra. With all of them we are working to strengthen our political ties, but also the economic and trade ones.
The problems we all face are too big for any of us – even the greatest among nations – to solve them alone. So in Munich and Bonn we also had several meetings on the great crises of our times, starting with those in Syria, Libya and the Middle East.
We Europeans believe these conflicts have to be addressed in the framework of the United Nations. So I discussed them with Secretary General Antonio Guterres, his Special Envoyr for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and the Director of the International Organisation for Migration William Swing. But I also met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu, Saudi Arabia’s Adel al Jubeir, the Secretary General of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, the President of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Anas al Abdeh, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Abu Gheit, ethe Secretary General of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, Yusuf al Othaimeen (here is the press release on my meetings on Syria).
The nuclear deal with Iran has shown that diplomacy and dialogue work. The agreement has now to be preserved: I talked about it boht with Zarif and with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano.
Cooperation works when everyone sees that their own interests and values are respected. This has to include historic phenomena such as migration. The European Union has launched migration compacts with five African countries. Among them is Ethiopia: in Munich I took stock of its implementation with Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu. And we keep cooperating with the UN agencies: together with the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and the Director of IOM, William Swing, we have decided to develop new initiatives to face the tragedy of migrants stranded in Libya. We have started a process to manage migration flows in a more sustainable humane way: it is beginning to work. And many in the world consider it an example to follow: in the G20 meeting on migration and security, in Munich, many praised the European Union and the work we are doing. This is the European way, based on multilateralism, partnership and cooperation. It is a rational, respectful and sustainable way to manage all phenomena, even the most complex.