Twelve things to bring with us in 2019

Twelve things to bring with us in 2019

First day of the year, and as usual I have decided to look back at the best moments of the last twelve months. 2018 ended on a sad note: a few days ago the world lost Amos Oz – an Israeli writer who never stopped believing in the possibility of peace and of the two-state solution. Oz once wrote: “There is no need to establish whose fault it was, whose blindness it was that caused the tragedy. What we need is to find a way out of the mire.” I would like to keep this lesson in mind as the new year begins. Against all the difficulties in our world and our times, we can try to build little big solutions, together with those who have the will and the possibility to do so. We know that great changes can start with small steps forward. This is also the common thread in the twelve moments from 2018 that I bring with me in the new year. These moments show that the European Union has become an indispensable point of reference, globally. And they let us look at the future with hope, in spite of all difficulties.   The Lake Prespa agreement In June I was at the border between Greece and the future North Macedonia, for the signature of an historic agreement between Athens and Skopje: thanks to the leadership and the courage of their Prime Ministers – Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev – the two countries have solved an issue that had poisoned their relationship for decades. The agreement sent a message of peace for the whole of...
Strong partnerships for difficult times. At work for Korea and Iran

Strong partnerships for difficult times. At work for Korea and Iran

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...
A Union for cooperation and multilateralism

A Union for cooperation and multilateralism

I write at the end of a week when we confirmed and strengthened the founding principles of our European foreign policy: cooperation and multilateralism, dialogue and the search for solutions that make us and our partners more stable, more secure and stronger economically. Over the last few days we have worked a lot with Africa: our cooperation is now closer than ever, and it serves both our interests and theirs. Last Tuesday I met in Brussels with the President of the Gambia, Adama Barrow, and his government: we have collected more than a billion euros from the international community, to support a country that has managed to move peacefully out of an authoritarian regime. Here is my speech at the conference, here the press release. Last Wednesday, together with the whole European Commission we met with the African Union’s Commission. With the commissioners and President Moussa Faki – whom I also met at length bilaterally – we decided to push forward our cooperation on security, on economic development, on a sustainable management of migration flows, and on crucial international issues such as the deal with Iran. Here is our statement. The nuclear deal remains central to our daily work: we keep working to preserve it, in the European Union and with our international partners. Dismantling a deal that is working would not at all strengthen our security – the contrary is true. This week the International Atomic Energy Agency has certified for the twelfth time that Iran is respecting all its nuclear commitments. Last Friday, in Vienna, the European Union chaired a new meeting of the Joint Commission on the...
Working to save the deal with Iran

Working to save the deal with Iran

I write from Sofia, Bulgaria, after days when the entire European Union, together, has worked non-stop on the nuclear deal with Iran and tensions in the Middle East. As the European Union, we believe that the US decision to withdraw from Iran deal is a mistake. The deal is working, as certified eleven times by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it is strategic for our security. So we are determined to preserve it, and united in our determination. Here are my words after the US announcement, and here is the declaration I made on behalf of all 28 EU States. On Tuesday I gathered in Brussels the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom – the three European countries that negotiated the deal together with the US, Russia and China. We decided to start working on a package of measures to protect the deal, to make sure that Iranian citizens can enjoy the benefits of it, and to safeguard our economic interests. Our goal is to maintain and deepen our economic ties – including with new projects, starting with energy and transport – while defending and incentivising small and medium enterprises investing in Iran. The same unanimous will to respect the deal was confirmed last night in Sofia, by the 28 heads of State and government of the European Union. They also agreed on the measures we had put forward yesterday morning at the European Commission’s meeting in Brussels, which I presented to them together with President Jean-Claude Juncker. The first step, tomorrow, will be to launch the procedure to activate...
On my way to Central Asia, for peace in Afghanistan

On my way to Central Asia, for peace in Afghanistan

I write on my way to Tashkent – in Central Asia, Uzbekistan – where together with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani I will open an international conference to help start a peace process in Afghanistan. Last week began with the Council of EU Foreign Ministers – where we worked on Syria, North Korea, the nuclear deal with Iran, Ukraine and our reaction to the Salisbury attack. Here is what I told journalists before the Foreign Affairs Council, and here the final press conference. This is the press point with the Republic of Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha: she was our guest at the Council to discuss how the European Union can keep supporting and accompanying diplomacy in the Korean peninsula. At the Council we were also joined by Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations’ special envoy for Syria: we prepared the second Brussels conference on Syria, that we will host in exactly one month. We will gather the international community to tackle the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in the country, mobilising resources to finance aid, but also to try and relaunch the peace talks in Geneva and put an end to the war. I also discussed Syria with the International Red Cross’ Peter Maurer, on Wednesday. With the EU Foreign Ministers we also discussed our work to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran – a few days after the signatories to the deal once again confirmed, from Vienna, that Iran is implementing all its commitments. This was also certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, with ten reports: and on Tuesday, in Brussels, I talked about this with Yukiya Amano, the Agency’s Director. More on the Middle East: on...