Real progress on European defence

Real progress on European defence

Over the last few days our work has been particularly intense, with important and concrete results on European defence. We have taken practical steps forward, which only one year ago would have seemed impossible to achieve.

Last Thursday, in Brussels, we set up the first single command centre for European military training and advisory missions. When we began to talk about it, a few months ago, I was told it would have taken us years before we could establish it. We have made it in just a few weeks. Here is the official press release.

The same day I travelled to Zaragoza, in Spain, to inaugurate the first European military airlift training centre. Until a few years ago, aircrews from European countries had to be trained in the United States. Today they finally get the training they need here in Europe, in a common structure for all Member States – which is already generating some interest outside the European Union. Here is my speech in Zaragoza.

The day before, on Wednesday, I was in Brussels to officially launch the European Defence Fund, which will finance common projects for military research and our defence industry (here is the press conference with Jyrki Katainen).

All these are real steps towards a European Union of security and defence: this is the best response to the European citizens’ and our partners’ need for security, but also to those who accuse our Union to be too slow and bureaucratic. Things can change, when there is the political will to make them change for the better. I talked about this at the Prague Security Conference on Friday (here is my speech), and yesterday in Finland with President Sauli Niinistö (at the Kultaranta talks, here). Finally, here is the reflection paper on the future of European defence, presented last week by the European Commission.

Two other important things about these days’ work: crucially, on our development policies. The European Union’s Member States, together, invest in development cooperation more than the rest of the world combined. On Wednesday, for the first time in our history, we have adopted a common strategy for the development policies not only of all European institutions, but also of all Member States. I talked about it at the European Development Days, here is the video. On the same day, Wednesday, I presented together with the Commission a proposal to strengthen the resilience of our partners around the world. Resilience might sound like a difficult word, but the concept behind it is very simple: almost one fourth of the world’s population lives in fragile situations that – if left unchecked – might turn into new wars, new humanitarian disasters, new refugee crises. The European Union can mobilise a unique mix of tools to avoid these future crises: here is the press release on our proposals.

At the European Development Days I had the opportunity to meet some of our global partners: Alpha Condé, the President of Guinea and the African Union, President Macky Sall of Senegal, and Vice-president Daniel Kablan Duncan of Ivory Coast, with whom we are organising the next EU-Africa Summit. With the Commissioner of the UN Agency for Palestinian refugees, Pierre Krähenbühl, we signed a new agreement on the European Union’s support to UNRWA’s work (here is the press release).

One last thing, and a very important one. In the last few days we have worked intensively with our partners in the Gulf to avoid a new escalation, after Saudi Arabia and other countries cut diplomatic ties wit Qatar. Last Friday I hosted in Brussels Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammad al Thani, and I also spoke several times to the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al Jubeir. I invited both of them to seek a renewed dialogue, and to accept the mediation offered by Kuwait. I also discussed this with the Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sabah al Khalid al Sabah, offering all the European Union’s support to prevent the crisis from getting worse and find a political way out, to address the tensions in a crucial area for the security, the stability and the economy of the world – including Europe. Here is my press conference following the meeting with al Thani.

Today we will continue to talk about the situation in the Gulf in Oslo: there I will meet, among others, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif – last week, I had already contacted him to offer our condolences after the terrorist attack in Teheran. The visit to Norway will also be the opportunity to take part in the Oslo Forum, and to pay tribute to the victims of the attack in Utoya, six years ago. They were young people who had decided to invest much of their time to serve their country, and to make our world a better place.