Towards a Europe of defence

I write after coming back from Bulgaria, where I chaired an informal meeting of the European Union’s Defence Ministers. We worked on some practical projects we launched to build up a Europe of defence, for the first time in our history. And we talked about peacekeeping operations with two important partners: NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller and the United Nations’ Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping Jean-Pierre Lacroix. Here is what I told journalists before and after the meeting. We also discussed the new budget of the European Union, which for the first time will also deal with defence and security for our citizens. Last Wednesday we put forward, as European Commission, our proposal for a budget with important innovations – for instance, we propose to double the funds for the Erasmus programme. Here is our proposal. Last week had begun in Cairo, with a meeting of the Quartet for Libya – together with the Arab League, the African Union and the United Nations. Here is the press conference in Cairo. From Cairo I also commented on the presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Iran: I repeated that the deal with Iran is based on a strong monitoring mechanism by the International Atomic Energy Agency – it is not based on trust between the parties. And every inspection by the IAEA has certified that the deal is being implemented. Here is my answer to journalists on Iran. A few other important things from last week. On Thursday I chaired the Association Council with Moldova – here is the press conference after the Council. On Wednesday I took the floor in the European Parliament to debate the political crisis in Venezuela...
A force for peace, from the Balkans to Afghanistan

A force for peace, from the Balkans to Afghanistan

I have spent this week travelling between Central Asia, the Balkans and Brussels. First I was in Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, to open the international conference for peace in Afghanistan together with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Uzbekistan’s Shavkat Mirziyoyev. It was an important moment, to gather international support for President Ghani’s proposal for negotiations between his government and the Taliban. I announced the European Union’s readiness to accompany this process with all our power – political, diplomatic and economic – to help rebuild the fabric of the Afghan society, its democracy, and to strengthen cooperation and connectivity between Afghanistan and its neighbours. Here is my speech at the opening of the Conference. The Tashkent Conference was also the opportunity to meet bilaterally with President Ghani (here is the press release) and President Mirziyoyev, but also with India’s Foreign Minister MJ Akbar, Pakistan’s Muhammad Asif, and the five Central Asian Foreign Ministers: with them, we worked to push forward the decision we took in our meeting in Samarkand at the end of last year. Press release here. From Uzbekistan to Belgrade, to discuss with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic about the future of the dialogue with Pristina – facilitated by the European Union – after a very serious episode of tension happened in Kosovo last Monday. Here is our joint statement. Back to Brussels, on Wednesday: together with the European Commission we approved a plan to remove obstacles – both physical and bureaucratic – that make it difficult for European militaries to move within our continent. This is part of the work we have carried on over the last two years towards a Europe of defence. Press release here. In Brussels I also had the pleasure to receive Finland’s...
For a more secure, more autonomous and stronger Europe

For a more secure, more autonomous and stronger Europe

This week marked a historic moment for European integration. Last Tuesday, for the first time in our history, we gathered a Council of Ministers in the Permanent Structured Cooperation format: with 25 Defence Ministers, we agreed on the first seventeen projects for common European defence, and on a roadmap to move towards closer cooperation on research and development. We want to make Europe more secure, more autonomous and to strengthen our defence industry. On the same day, with Defence Ministers from all 28 Member States, we met with NATO deputy Secretary General, Rose Gottemoeller, to push our cooperation even further: EU and NATO have never worked so closely, with 74 common projects already in place. We also discussed all 16 European military and civilian missions. Here is my press conference after the Council. The push for European defence and our ever stronger commitment on global challenges – starting with migration – are at the core of a new documentary film, Europe at Sea. Director Annalisa Piras followed our daily work for two years, and the movie was presented last Friday in Brussels. You can watch it here. The movie catches the gist of our daily work – that is, to always seek opportunities for cooperation. Cooperation among our Member States, with our global partners, with multilateral organisations. Such as the Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe: last Monday I met their Secretary General, Thomas Greminger, to discuss the open crises on our continent – starting with Ukraine. I will be in Kyiv today and tomorrow, in a delicate moment for the country – for the search of a solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and...