In the far North, a global crossroads

In the far North, a global crossroads

I write after a week spent between Brussels and the far north of Europe. And my visits to Norway and Finland were also an opportunity to meet several partner from more distant parts of the world.

On Tuesday I was at the Oslo Forum, where I discussed the future of dialogue, multilateralism and the common work to stabilise our region, together with Norway’s Foreign Minister Borge Brende. Here is the video from the opening session of the Forum with the Foreign Ministers of Iran, Javad Zarif, of Indonesia, Retno Marsudi, and John Kerry; and here is our joint press conference.

The visit to Oslo was an important opportunity to meet Javad Zarif, and to discuss with him our bilateral relations after the re-election of President Rouhani, the situation in the region – particularly the Syrian crisis – and the implementation of the nuclear deal: the International Atomic Agency has just monitored and certified again the full respect of the agreement. The deal is working, it is making our region and the world safer: so the European Union will continue to guarantee its full implementation, by all parties.

From the Gulf to Latin America: in Oslo I also met for the first time with a delegation of the FARC: we discussed the implementation of the peace deal in Colombia and the European support to reconciliation and economic recovery in the country.

But perhaps the most important and moving part of my trip to Norway was the visit to Utoya. On this island, six years ago, tens of young men and women were murdered by the killing spree of a far-right extremist. Utoya was a place for political commitment, friendship and hope – a paradise that was turned into hell. Today it is once again a place for life and encounters. Those young people’s dreams and projects have come back to Utoya. I had the privilege to be welcomed on the island by some of the survivors: I heard from them the story of those moments, the ideas of these youth who had chosen to serve their country and the world, even for just a few weeks. What I saw in their eyes, heard in their words, is the power of life that starts flowing again: this is the best tribute to the victims of that tragic July 22nd of six years ago. Here are some of the image from the visit to Utoya.

Yesterday I was in Finland, in Oulu, to work with our neighbours and partner – from Canada to Norway – on the Arctic. This region has marked for centuries the border of Europe: today it is a gateway, a strategic crossroads among continents, for trade, for research, for cooperation among regional powers. But it is also and foremost a region we have the responsibility to protect from climate change, preserving together the Paris deal on climate. Here is my speech from yesterday.

In Oulu I met not only our Finnish guests – Prime Minister Juha Sipila and Foreign Minister Timo Soini – but also many international partners, such as Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Two other important things. On Monday, I welcomed Skopije’s new Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, on his first visit to Brussels. We talked about how to launch a new phase of national reconciliation, after the last months’ tensions, and how to relaunch the process to join the European Union. Press release here

On Wednesday, we presented a new report on the migration compacts we set up a year ago with some African countries, which are bringing the first concrete results. On the same day, the news came from Niger that almost a hundred men, women and children – abandoned in the desert by human smugglers, with no food or water – have been saved by the Nigerien security forces, together with the International Organisation for Migration. The operation was possible thanks to the European Union’s financial support: a demonstration of how crucial our cooperation with countries of origin and transit is.