I write from Sofia, Bulgaria, after days when the entire European Union, together, has worked non-stop on the nuclear deal with Iran and tensions in the Middle East.
As the European Union, we believe that the US decision to withdraw from Iran deal is a mistake. The deal is working, as certified eleven times by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it is strategic for our security. So we are determined to preserve it, and united in our determination. Here are my words after the US announcement, and here is the declaration I made on behalf of all 28 EU States.
On Tuesday I gathered in Brussels the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom – the three European countries that negotiated the deal together with the US, Russia and China. We decided to start working on a package of measures to protect the deal, to make sure that Iranian citizens can enjoy the benefits of it, and to safeguard our economic interests. Our goal is to maintain and deepen our economic ties – including with new projects, starting with energy and transport – while defending and incentivising small and medium enterprises investing in Iran.
The same unanimous will to respect the deal was confirmed last night in Sofia, by the 28 heads of State and government of the European Union. They also agreed on the measures we had put forward yesterday morning at the European Commission’s meeting in Brussels, which I presented to them together with President Jean-Claude Juncker. The first step, tomorrow, will be to launch the procedure to activate the “blocking statute” to protect European firms from the effects of US sanctions.
Friday next week we also gather the Joint Commission that monitors the deal’s implementation, to examine the implications of the US decision.
There is a metaphor that came up several times over the last few days: the deal is like a patient in intensive care, and our shared goal is to restore it to health as soon as possible. This is what I told journalists before our meeting on Tuesday and here is the press conference at the end of the day.
Once again the European Union is the reliable partner, and it is indispensable in such a moment of instability for the Middle East. We continue to go through dramatic events: from the clashes on the border between Israel and Syria, to the unspeakable suffering of the Yemeni people, to tens of deaths in Gaza after the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem (here is my statement and my answer to journalists on Tuesday morning). As the European Union, we won’t stop working to find a political solution to all these crises: there is no other way to reach a just and lasting peace.
We have seen how powerful diplomacy can be, for instance in our relationship with Cuba. On Tuesday we held our first Joint Council, at ministerial level, after we normalised our relationship. We also established the dates for five thematic dialogues – including on human rights – that will let us deepen our relations on a foundation of mutual respect. Here is our press conference.
The same respect and the same determination to cooperate are central to our very close relations with many countries in North Africa – and this week I chaired the Association Councils with Tunisia and Algeria – and in our Eastern Partnership (on Monday I met with Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov).
And in the Western Balkans, that we are accompanying in their path towards the European Union: yesterday afternoon I met in Sofia with Presidents Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci to work on the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue (press release here).
Respect and cooperation will also drive our relationship with the United Kingdom when they will leave the European Union, particularly in the field of security and defence: I discussed this on Monday with Michel Barnier, here is my speech.
International relations today – and national politics too – are too often based on screaming, dismantling and destroying. But only the patient search for common ground can lead to win-win solutions, in which everyone has something to gain. Sometimes we do have to use our military power, but it is always to serve the cause of peace: this is what I discussed with the European Union’s Chiefs of Defence, who met in Brussels on Tuesday to work on a Europe of defence.
This is what our Union is today, and like every year we celebrated it on May 9th. In a world of conflicts and crises, the European Union remains a point of reference for those who still want to invest in multilateralism, in the art of compromise, in diplomacy. I talked about it yesterday with the United Nation’s Secretary general Antonio Guterres. But also last week in Florence, at the annual conference on the State of the Union – here is my speech. Here is my video on Europe day, and here the message I sent to a group of young people who met in Ventotene last week. It is also up to our young people to carry forward the project of our founders, like Altiero Spinelli: to strengthen our Union, and to change it when necessary.