Our solidarity with France after the Paris attacks. Speech at the European Parliament

M le Président, Mesdames, Messieurs les députés, Ceux-ci ne sont pas des temps ordinaires pour l’Europe. Nous faisons face à des défis sans précédents. Nos citoyens nous demandent quel est le sens de notre Union. Quelqu’un prétends qu’une Union à 28 soit trop complexe, trop «plurielle» pour prendre des bonnes décisions dans cette époque difficile. Nous avons le devoir de réagir à ces préoccupations. Notre réponse face aux horribles attentats de Paris a surpris beaucoup d’observateurs. Certains d’entre eux avait préconisé que dans l’heure la plus sombre l’Europe aurait été divisée, déchirée par des luttes intestines. J’ai assisté à tous les sommets européens après vendredi 13 Novembre, donc laissez-moi vous le dire: notre réponse a été celle d’une vraie Union, à partir du premier jour. Comme vous le savez, après les attaques terroristes de Paris, la France a demandé le soutien des autres états membres, comme prévu par l’article 42.7 du Traité de l’Union européenne. Lors du Conseil des ministres européens de la défense du 17 novembre dernier, les états membres ont envoyé un message très fort d’unité et de solidarité à la France. Beyond the political message, Article 42.7 TEU contains concrete obligations for Member States. Indeed, the Member States have an obligation (“shall”) to “provide aid and assistance to the MS under attack with all the means in their power”. This formulation is usually understood as referring to the use of military means, but no doubt Article 42.7 also covers assistance through other instruments or means of support of non-military nature. The article expresses a high-level of commitment. It is up to each Member State to determine...

Our action for minorities in the Middle East. Speech in the European Parliament

President, Honourable members, Sectarianism is one of the diseases of our age. For centuries, countless faiths and ethnicities have lived together in the Middle East, more than in any other part of the world. Of course sectarian conflicts have always existed. But the diversity of the Middle East has never been as vulnerable as it is today. For too long, too many actors have fostered sectarian divisions in a struggle for regional power. This is what we are seeing also now. Today we see the devastating effects of such behaviour. The terrorist group known as Da’esh has turned sectarian strife into a core theme of its propaganda and of its actions. They have used it as a tool for recruitment and as an excuse for claiming oil-rich lands. Not much about religion, a lot about power. Before I get into more detail on how to tackle the mass murder of minorities, let me be clear on one important thing. Da’esh is not just a threat to minorities. A few days ago we learnt that Da’esh has allegedly killed more than a hundred people and kidnapped hundreds in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor. According to the first reports, all of them were Sunni Muslims. If you look at the numbers of victims in the current conflicts, the vast majority of them are Muslims. This is true in Syria and Iraq, as well as in Nigeria or in Pakistan. And also in Europe we have had Muslim victims of terrorist attacks. All faiths, all peoples are united in the fight against terror. Sending this message is a duty we all...

A window of opportunity for Syria. Speech at the European Parliament

Mr President, Honourable Members, In Syria we face the biggest humanitarian tragedy in our region since World War II. 6.5 million Syrians are internally displaced – and if the fighting rages on, these could be the refugees of tomorrow. Around 400 000 Syrians have no access to humanitarian aid, especially in areas that are besieged. We have reached a staggering level of 4.6 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, with chances being high that this number will continue to grow due to intense fighting on the ground. Starvation inside Syria is used as means of warfare, against the weakest and most vulnerable people on the ground – in particular women and children. The Syrian government has now granted humanitarian access in Madaya, but this is far from being enough. In other ongoing sieges people have been trapped for months, unable to exit, with no access to food, no access to medication, no access to basic services. They need our help. Several local ceasefires reached in recent months are a reason to hope, for example in Waer neighbourhood of Homs. Still, this stopped far short: the goal of a nation-wide ceasefire between government and opposition remains urgent. The bombings and targeting of civilian areas and structures like hospitals and schools, in particular by the Syrian regime and its allies, is unacceptable. This is why it is crucial that in parallel with the political process we call on all parties to cease all attacks and bombing of civilian targets, put an end to sieges of civilian areas and fully respect the international humanitarian law. It would be a disaster if, as...