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...
Before I travel to Iran and South-East Asia

Before I travel to Iran and South-East Asia

It has been yet another intense week, before I head again to Iran, for the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani (here is the press release), and then to Manila, for a meeting of the European Union and Asia and to take part in the ASEAN Regional Forum. It will be an opportunity to discuss with our Asian and international partners the situation in the Korean peninsula – here is our statement in reaction to the latest North Korean test, last Friday. On the other side of the world, today’s vote in Venezuela risks to further escalate tensions in the country. Here is my declaration on behalf of the 28 EU members. Getting closer to home: this week, in Brussels, we took an important decision. Last Tuesday we extended the mandate for Operation Sophia, which for two years has been fighting human traffickers and saving lives in the Mediterranean. We decided to expand the operation’s tasks, with a better training of the Libyan coastguard. Here is the Council’s decision. On Monday and Tuesday, we gathered in Brussels the Association Council between the European Union and Egypt, for the first time since the beginning of the revolts in the Arab world. Here is the press conference with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. In the same days we also held a High Level Political Dialogue with Turkey: here is the final press conference with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Europe Minister Omer Celik. Egypt and Turkey are to crucial partners to tackle the main crises in the Middle East and North Africa: together we mostly discussed the war in Syria, the tensions in Jerusalem, the Gulf crisis – also in light...
A force for peace and security, still after Brexit

A force for peace and security, still after Brexit

I write after the first meeting of the European Council at 27, without the United Kingdom, where we set together our position in the Brexit negotiations. Today I saw great unity and the understanding that we – who remain in the EU – have the responsibility to make our Union work the best we can, for our citizens and for peace and security in the world. The European Union will remain, even without the UK, the second largest economy in the world, the biggest market, the greatest engine for cooperation and development on Earth. Here is my doorstep with journalists arriving at the Council. Over the last few days I was in Malta instead, for the informal gathering of the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the Twenty-eight. Three days of common work, with some important results. First of all, on defence. We decided to keep heading towards a real European Union of security and defence: we are preparing a Permanent Structured Cooperation among Member States on defence and a Coordinated Annual Review of military spending, to make Europeans more secure and to invest our resources more efficiently. We are also removing the obstacles that so far have prevented us from deploying the Battlegroups, Europe’s rapid response force. Here is what I told journalists ahead of the Defence Ministers’ meeting, here the final press conference. And here is the visit to the San Giusto ship of Operation Sophia, the European naval operation that keeps saving lives in the Mediterranean, arresting smugglers and helping the Libyan coastguard do the same in their own territorial waters. But we didn’t only focus on defence. Yesterday, with the Foreign Ministers, we agreed...
A strong, reliable, indispensable partner

A strong, reliable, indispensable partner

I write after a week that was particularly dense with meetings. It started in Brussels, for the NATO ministerial, then Bonn for the G20, and Munich for the Security Conference. The message I gathered, in all the bilateral meetings I had, is that the world looks at the European Union as a strong, reliable, cooperative and indispensable partner. A much stronger one than we usually realise. And an even more indispensable partner in dangerous and confused times, when rules are too often perceived as a constraint for some, not as a guarantee for all. The European Union is a point of reference when talking about peace, multilateralism, development, rights, free and fair trade. But also when talking about security – for our military and civilian missions around the world, and for cooperation with NATO. And more. It would be an illusion to believe that the challenges ahead of us can be faced with military force only. So the European Union invests in development, in the promotion of human rights, in education, in policies against climate change. We invest in strong societies, not in strong men: it is much more effective to bring real stability. This is not “philanthropy,” these are not just high-minded sentiments: it is a rational investment in our own security. This is what I told the Munich Security Conference, yesterday morning. Inequalities create instability and frailty – this is what we discussed at the G20 in Bonn. In the past, we could talk about what we could do “for” Africa; today, we must understand what we can do together, “with” Africa. We are partners for peace and security, for democracy and rights, for sustainable development,...