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...

Korea, Syria, Libya: three meetings on the road to peace

I write on my way to Cairo: together with the Arab League, the African Union and the United Nations I will take part in a meeting of the Libya Quartet – which we prepared last Thursday in Brussels with UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame. Last week was intense and important. First and foremost, because of the historic meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas: it was a sign that it is always possible to start walking on the road to peace, even after over sixty years of conflict, if one has the courage of dialogue and diplomacy. I wrote about this here. And here is the press release on my meeting last Wednesday with Japan’s Foreign Minister Tarō Kōno. But it was also the week of the second Brussels Conference on the future of Syria, which I chaired together with the United Nations. In Brussels we mobilised over four billion dollars for 2018, to support Syrians inside and outside their country. And even more importantly, we worked to help the United Nations relaunch the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, and find a political solution to end the war. We gave voice to the Syrian civil society: they showed us that they can leave aside their differences – political, ethnic and social – to walk on the path towards peace and reconciliation. And we brought to the same table all the regional and international actors – from Saudi Arabia to Iran, from Turkey to Russia and the United States. We decided to open the conference listening to the words of Farah, a Syrian girl who lives in a camp in Jordan and dreams to become a teacher. It...
Mission accomplished on European defence. And we’re already back to work

Mission accomplished on European defence. And we’re already back to work

I write after a historic week for the European Union. Last Monday, with the Foreign Ministers of the Union, we officially launched a Permanent Structured Cooperation on defence among 25 European Member States: it is a binding commitment to invest together, to strengthen our defence industry together, to act together for peace and security. We start with 17 projects for practical cooperation – I have talked about it at the European Parliament’s plenary in Strasbourg. On Thursday, at the European Council, we celebrated this success with the heads of State and government. But the work has already restarted: on Wednesday night I was with Javier Solana and Joschka Fischer – two great Europeans who have worked a lot to relaunch our Union on foreign and defence policy – and I presented six ideas on the next steps for European defence. Now we have the right tools, and we have a duty to explore their potential at full. Here is my speech. On Friday, then, I had the pleasure to go back to NATO headquarters together with the people who work with me everyday, as guests of Jens Stoltenberg and his team. It was a way to show that a stronger European defence goes hand in hand with a stronger cooperation between the European Union and NATO. But last week we didn’t only work on defence. Last Monday I welcomed to Brussels the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, together with the 28 EU Foreign Ministers. I was the first visit of an Israeli Prime Minister in Brussels in over twenty years: today Israel and the European Union are tied by a strong friendship, which allows us to be very open about our disagreements. On Jerusalem,...