The State of the Union, from Strasbourg to Skopje

The State of the Union, from Strasbourg to Skopje

I write after a week spent in Brussels, Strasbourg and Skopje. On Wednesday President Juncker gave his annual State of the Union speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Central to the speech was the new relationship between Europe and Africa: a cooperation between partners who have so many interests in common. Friday in Brussels I presented the main decisions we took, here is the video. In Strasbourg I met with Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and together with him I took off to Skopje. The people I met in the city’s streets feel fully European – and they are. I told all of them that the referendum on September 30th – to confirm the agreement between Athens and Skopje on the name “North Macedonia” – is an extraordinary opportunity to make their voice heard and to show their desire to join the European Union. The country’s destiny is in their hands. Here is what I told journalists in Skopje. At the European Parliament’s plenary session we worked on our relations with the United States on the 17th anniversary of 9/11, on China, Libya, Palestine, on how to regulate the military use of artificial intelligence, and some human rights violations in Uganda, Cambodia and Myanmar. I also restated the importance of the International Criminal Court, in a moment when some are questioning its very existence. I also met Members of the European Parliament that are part of the Union for the Mediterranean’s Parliamentary Assembly, to discuss our priorities in the region. On Friday, back to Brussels, I chaired the Council of Development Ministers, where we continued our...
At the European Council on migration, the Balkans and defence

At the European Council on migration, the Balkans and defence

I write after a long-anticipated European Council, particularly in Italy, because of sensitivity of the issues on the agenda – starting with migration. Migration is a historic phenomenon that no country can manage alone. We need a shared and consensual work, both inside and outside Europe’s borders. And this is what we do every day, not just on the European Council’s days (and nights). This week for instance I met again with Mali’s Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maïga (press release here). With the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and the Director General of the International Organisation for Migration, William Swing, we have started to discuss a possible common initiative for disembarkation points on the Mediterranean shores, managed by the United Nations with European support. This is something we discussed at the European Council, and we will continue to work with Grandi and with the new IOM director Antonio Vitorino (here is the press release on my phone conversation with Grandi and Swing, here I congratulate Vitorino on his appointment). At the European Council we also discussed another pillar of the Union’s external action: the work to make our partners in the Balkans join the European Union. The 28 leaders have confirmed the decision to open negotiation in 2019 with Albania and the future Republic of North Macedonia – as it will be called. I wrote about it in these two op-eds (one on Albania, one on the future North Macedonia), and here is a conversation with journalists on the same topic. I also put on the table of the European Council the work we have done on European...

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...