I write after coming back from Bulgaria, where together with the whole College of European Commissioners we inaugurated the Bulgarian semester of Presidency of the European Union. The next six months will be particularly important for our relations with the Balkans: our goal remains to consolidate our six partners’ path towards the EU, so it becomes an irreversible process.
These were intense days, especially because of our work to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran. On Thursday I chaired a meeting in Brussels with the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and with the Foreign Ministers of the three European countries that negotiated the deal (Jean-Yves Le Drian for France, Boris Johnson for Britain, and Sigmar Gabriel for Germany).
The deal is working, the International Atomic Energy Agency has certified it nine times already, and it is crucial for the security of Europe and the world. It is positive that yesterday President Donald Trump confirmed that the United States will respect their commitments, extending the waiver on nuclear-related sanctions foreseen by the deal.
Our meeting in Brussels was also the opportunity to discuss other themes that are not related to the nuclear deal, as the last weeks’ protests in Iran, the tensions in the Middle East and Iran’s ballistic missiles program. There are issues we Europeans are concerned about, which we are committed to tackling with even greater determination, outside the scope of the nuclear deal: in fact, the deal was negotiated on the basis on a UN mandate that limited its scope very clearly. Here is the press conference with Le Drian, Johnson and Gabriel dopo l’incontro.
For the European Union, the Middle East is a strategic region: stability, peace and security in the region are linked directly to our own stability, peace and security. And we are determined to protect them. This week, together with the new Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, we decided to call for an extraordinary meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, the group of international donors for Palestine. It is the first time that this happens: in a particularly delicate moment for Israel and Palestine, we must do all we can to preserve the perspective of the two States, to grant peace and security for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. This is also what I discussed on the phone with the Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, here is the press release.
The situation in the Middle East, but also antisemitism and the importance of Jewish culture to our European identity, were at the core of my speech last night to the Brussels’ Jewish community: they honoured me with an invitation to their traditional dinner to mark the beginning of shabbat.
Two more important meetings I had this week: on Tuesday I welcomed Father Fabio Baggio, the Vatican Undersecretary for migration. We discussed the work we are doing for migrants, and new opportunities of cooperation between the Holy See and the European Union. Press release here.
On the same day I also met with Horst Köhler, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy for Western Sahara, to discuss how the European Union can best support the UN-led peace process (press release).
My year had started in Cuba, for my first visit since our new political dialogue and cooperation agreement with the highland entered into force. It is a moment of great change in the country, but also of new international tensions. My trip was an opportunity to discuss the potential of our relationship with Cuba: a potential for economic growth, for accompanying the island’s modernisation, and to strengthen our dialogue on human rights. This is what I discussed with President Raul Castro, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, the Ministers of Trade Rodrigo Malmierca and of Culture Abel Prieto, with the President of the National Assembly Esteban Lazo, with Cardinal Jaime Ortega, with the young people I met at the University of Habana and at a Centre for adolescents supported by the EU. Here is my speech at the University, here is the press conference (in spanish).