I write after one week of official visits to Asia and Oceania, starting in Singapore (I already wrote about it here) then in South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.
My visit to South Korea started at the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas. The European Union continues to accompany the ongoing negotiations, both on inter-Korean reconciliation and on the full de-nuclearisation of the peninsula. With Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa, the Minister of Unification Cho Myung-gyun and the director of intelligence Suh Hoon we discussed how to deepen and expand our support to the talks in this important and delicate moment, under President Moon’s and his government’s leadership. We also discussed the excellent cooperation among our countries, and how to fully explore our free trade agreement’s potential. Here is the press release, and here is the press conference.
While I was in Korea, on August 6th, the new US sanctions against Iran entered into force, after the United States’ decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal’s implementation. In this moment, as we work to solve North Korea’s nuclear issue, it is essential not to open another nuclear crisis with Iran – a crisis we closed in 2015 after twelve years of difficult negotiations, reaching a deal that has so far been fully implemented as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency in eleven reports.
For us Europeans, as for the rest of the international community, preserving this deal is a vital matter of security and nuclear non-proliferation. So our response has been immediate: we activated the “blocking statute” protecting European firms from the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions – more info here. And all our partners in the countries I just visited have confirmed their intention to do all they can to preserve the deal with Iran. Here is my statement together with the Foreign Ministers of the three European countries that negotiated the deal, here are my comments on Iran during my press conference in New Zealand.
My week continued – after Singapore and Seoul – in New Zealand and Australia: two countries that are very distant geographically from us, but could not be closer to the European Union as partners and friends.
In Wellington I met with the new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, with Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Defence Minister Ron Mark. We talked about the new phase of our partnership, the positive launch of negotiations on a trade deal, our common security work in the Pacific, and all the main issues on the international agenda. The press release is here, here are the press conference with Prime Minister Ardern and Foreign Minister Peters. I also inaugurated the premises of the European Union’s embassy, together with the Member States’ Ambassadors in the country: it is another sign of our closeness.
My visit to Australia was also centred on our excellent cooperation, and on the work to expand and strengthen it even further. In times of uncertainty and instability, as the ones we live in, it becomes essential to deepen our ties with countries that share our vision of international relations, of trade, security, of the need to protect our environment and our oceans in particular, but also and most importantly our vision of democracy and rights.
In a long and productive day with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, we worked to strengthen our cooperation – including on security – and to launch trade negotiations. She also told me that Australia is willing to take part in our mission for civilian security sector reform in Iraq. Here are our press conference and our joint statement.
Finally, a meeting with the European-Australian Business Council. As some are trying to go back to a protectionist trade policy, we are investing even more in negotiations to build new trade deals. This is the best way to protect our firms, while promoting better rules for the global economy. Here is our conversation.
Now, back to Europe: I will take a few days to rest and to prepare for the next meeting of the 28 Member States’ Foreign and Defence Ministers – that I will chair in Vienna at the end of August.