From Washington to Samarkand

From Washington to Samarkand

I write on my way back from Central Asia: in Kyrgyzstan first, for a bilateral visit, then in Uzbekistan, in Samarkand, for the annual meeting between the European Union and the Foreign Minister of five Central Asian countries. For centuries Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have been a crossroads between East and West. They still are. For our economies, as a strategic connection for international trade on the old Silk Road, and for energy. But also for our security, from Afghanistan to the fight against terrorism and the prevention of radicalisation. These countries increasingly look at Europe not only as their first market and donor, but also as a strong and reliable political partner. In Samarkand we decided to strengthen our partnership for the years to come. The European Union has encouraged a lot, and continues to encourage, the reform process that has started in all five countries, at different speeds – be it economic reform or on justice, the rule of law and civil rights. We discussed how to move forward this path towards reforms and change in all my bilateral meetings: in Bishkek with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, President-elect Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Prime Minister Sapar Isakov; in Samarkand with the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov, of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov, of Kyrgyzstan Erlan Abdyldayev, of Tajikistan Sirodjidin Aslov, and of Turkmenistan Raşit Meredow. Here is my speech in Samarkand and the final press conference. My visit to Samarkand was also the opportunity to meet again with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to talk about the nuclear deal. The European Union is determined to make sure everyone implements the agreement, which is working as certified eight times by the International Atomic Energy...
We can choose to change our times

We can choose to change our times

I write after a week in Brussels and in Germany, concluded by a European Council dealing with many important issues for the security of European citizens and the world. Starting with North Korea: the leaders of the Twenty-eight supported our decision to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang, to try and open a new channel for dialogue to end the current crisis (here are the Council conclusions). On Friday afternoon, here in Brussels, I talked about this with the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, Kang Kyung-wha (press release here). The Council also endorsed the work we are doing to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, to manage migration flows and for Africa’s development. I talked about this with journalists arriving at the Council, here. And we confirmed that by the end of the year we will launch – for the first time in our Union’s history – a Permanent structured cooperation among Member States on defence. It is the conclusion of a work we initiated almost two years ago, but also a new beginning, towards a Union that can be an even stronger force for peace and security – for Europeans and for the world. Three other important things from the last few days. Today, in Geneva, the European Union hosted with Kuwait a conference to support Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. We announced an extra 30 million in aid to Rohingyas in Bangladesh – here is the press release. I discussed the situation in Myanmar with Aung San Suu Kyi last Thursday – also ahead of the Europe-Asia summit to be hold there in November (press release). Last Tuesday I was in Germany, where I received...