At work on the Balkans, Ukraine and the Middle East

At work on the Balkans, Ukraine and the Middle East

I write at the end of a week spent in Brussels – at work mostly on the Balkans, Ukraine and the Middle East. My week started with the Association Council with Ukraine: together with Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, we talked about the situation in Crimea and the Sea of Azov, but also about the economic and anti-corruption reforms that the government is carrying on with the European Union’s support. Here is the press conference after the meeting, here is the press release. Then, a series of meetings with our partners in the Balkans. On Wednesday I hosted an informal lunch with the six leaders from the region: we discussed the work ahead to consolidate their path towards the European Union. They all confirmed their support to last summer’s agreement between Greece and the future Northern Macedonia, and to the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina. I also met separately with Skopje’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Montenegro’s President Milo Dukanovic, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj for the Association Council with Kosovo (press release here, and here is the statement on Pristina’s decision to change the Kosovo Security Forces’ mandate), and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic for the Association Council with Serbia (press conference here). On Thursday I chaired the Association Council with Egypt – this is the press conference with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri: we discussed cooperation among our countries, but also – and mainly – the situation in the region, in particular tensions in Israel and Palestine. It is a delicate moment for the Middle East: on the one hand, the attempts to bring an end to the war in Yemen (here is...
Two important achievements for the Europe of defence

Two important achievements for the Europe of defence

I write after a week spent in Brussels and in Turkey, which started with some important achievements in our work on the Europe of defence and ended today with the meeting of the 27 heads of government on the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. My week started with the meeting of Foreign and Defence Ministers of the Union, with the participation – as usual – of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. On Tuesday we added two elements to our work for Europe to be more secure and a more effective global force for peace. We approved seventeen new projects in the framework of our Permanent Structured Cooperation on defence – from drones to a European school of intelligence, from cyber-security to aerospace. And we decided to strengthen the civilian dimension of our international missions – which is already today a European pride, from Mali to Ukraine, from Iraq to Somalia. We want to expand even more our civilian action, with new capacities and shorter reaction time. We also discussed the future of Operation Sophia, our naval mission in the Mediterranean: all ministers confirmed their support to the Operation, but if there will be no agreement on its future in the coming few weeks, we will have to suspend it. Here is what I told journalists before the Council with Defence ministers, and the final press conference. On Monday, with the Foreign Ministers, we talked about the war in Yemen – in a moment when a de-escalation seems possible, and after my phone call with the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffith. We also worked on Ukraine, Bosnia and...
National sovereignty today needs the European Union

National sovereignty today needs the European Union

I write after a week spent in Strasbourg and Brussels. First at the weekly meeting of the College of Commissioners and the European Parliament’s plenary in Strasbourg: we worked on the tragic case of Jamal Khashoggi, killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul (here is my speech in Strasbourg, here the statement we released with the G7 Foreign Ministers), on the situation in Crimea and the Sea of Azov (video here), and on how to support a political process to end the crisis in Venezuela (video). More work on America Latina as I came back to Brussels: I met with Colombia’s President Ivan Duque – here is the press conference with him and Jean-Claude Juncker. In Brussels I joined the meeting of the Member States’ Chiefs of Defence, where we discussed our common work for European defence; I took part in the meeting of Catholic bishops who lead national Bishops’ Conferences all across Europe (at the annual COMECE conference); and I inaugurated an installation to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The installation was hosted in New York and Geneva before, the two cities of the United Nations: we have now welcomed it in Brussels, at the heart of European institutions, to symbolise the close friendship between the UN and the EU – video here. Finally, yesterday in Milan I met with Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, and together with him I spoke at the Democratic Party’s national Forum – here is my speech, in Italian, on why in today’s world European countries need the European Union to strengthen their national...