Category Archives: diplomacy

NATO-Russia Council step forward

Brussels 12.01.2022 The NATO-Russia Council, which brings together all 30 NATO Allies and Russia, met in Brussels on Wednesday (12 January 2022) to discuss the situation in and around Ukraine, and the implications for European security.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who chaired the meeting, said: “This was not an easy discussion, but that is exactly why it was so important.” He noted that NATO Allies are ready to meet again with Russia to discuss a number of topics in greater detail and to put concrete proposals on the table. “There are opportunities for constructive engagement which should not be missed, in the interest of security in Europe,” he said.

“We had a frank and open discussion on a wide range of issues, of course, focusing on the tensions, the difficulties in and around Ukraine. And Allies also of course again expressed a deep concern about the continued Russian military build-up along the borders of Ukraine. And combined with threatening rhetoric from the Russian side, and a Russian track record of willingness to use force against neighbours, of course, Allies are concerned. And we are clear-eyed about the challenges we face when we now sit down with Russia and try to find a political way forward. But the meeting was useful. And I think that, especially when tensions are high, it is even more important that we meet, and that all Allies and Russia meet and sit around the same table and address the issues that are of concern.

“On membership and the NATO’s open door all Allies are united on the core principle that each and every nation has the right to choose his own path. This is enshrined in a lot of fundamental documents, many different documents, which are the foundation for European security. And, therefore, also Allies totally agree that it is only Ukraine and 30 Allies that can decide when Ukraine is ready to become a NATO member. No one else has anything to say and of course Russia doesn’t have a veto on whether Ukraine can become a NATO member. Allies are ready to support Ukraine on this path towards membership, helping to implement reforms, modernise the armed forces to meet NATO standards. And then, at the end of the day, it has to be NATO Allies and Ukraine that decides on membership”.

The council meeting marked the second stage in a series of talks between Russia and the West on Russia’s proposals for European security. The first stage was the talks between Russia and the US that took place in Geneva on January 10, and the third stage will happen as an OSCE meeting in Vienna on January 13.

The Russian delegation in Brussels is led by Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin. NATO is represented by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and representatives of 30 NATO member states in Brussels.

The negotiations between Moscow and Washington dedicated to Russia’s proposed security guarantees concluded on January 10 in Geneva. On January 12, Russia-NATO discussed the security issue in Europe, as well as Russian drafts on security assurances at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels, and on January 13 at the Vienna session of the OSCE Permanent Council.

On December 17, 2021, the Russian Foreign Ministry published the draft agreements between Russia and the US on security guarantees and the measures of ensuring the security of Russia and NATO member states.

EU diplomats convene in Brussels

Brussels 13.12.2021 Foreign affairs ministers will hold a comprehensive discussion on EU-Africa relations, touching on the overall situation on the continent and the challenges it faces in fields such as: security, development, demographic growth, health, democratic evolution, and engagement at a multilateral level.

The Council will then exchange views on Central Asia and the EU’s bilateral and regional engagement in the region, with a particular focus on connectivity. Afghanistan is also due to be touched on during the discussion.

The third subject to be discussed by the Council will be Venezuela. Ministers will focus on assessing the outcome of the elections and the results of the EU election observation mission.

Under current affairs, the Council will be informed about the Russian military build-up and movements of troops and equipment at the border with Ukraine, and discuss Varosha, Belarus, and Ethiopia.

During a working lunch ministers will have an informal exchange with the deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Ministers of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

The Council is due to adopt conclusions on the Common Security and Defence (CSDP) Policy Compact.

China: EU committed to support Lithuania

Brussels 08.12.2021 “The EU has been informed that Lithuanian shipments are not being cleared through the Chinese customs and that import applications from Lithuania are being rejected. We are in close contact with the Lithuanian government and are gathering information via the EU Delegation in Beijing in a timely manner” reads the Joint Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis on China’s measures against Lithuania. (Image: illustration, China)

“We are also reaching out to the Chinese authorities to rapidly clarify the situation”.

“Unity and solidarity within the EU remain key to upholding our interests and our values in our relations with all countries. The EU is ready to stand up against all types of political pressure and coercive measures applied against any Member State. The development of China’s bilateral relations with individual EU Member States has an impact on overall EU-China relations.

“If the information received were to be confirmed, the EU would also assess the compatibility of China’s action with its obligations under the World Trade Organisation.

“The EU remains committed to its One China Policy and recognises the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole government of China. Within the framework of this long-established policy, the EU will pursue cooperation and exchanges with Taiwan in areas of common interest”.

EU diplomacy focus on Belarus

Brussels 15.11.2021 “First, we are going to have the Foreign Affairs Council. After [this] we are going to have the meeting with the Ministers of the Eastern Partnership. And after this, we will have the Jumbo meeting with Foreign and Defense Ministers to start talking about the Strategic Compass” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell at doorstep of the meeting of the ministers in Brussels.(Image: Europa building, archive)

“On the Foreign Affairs Ministers Council: we are going to review the whole set of problems starting certainly with the situation in Belarus. Yesterday, I had phone calls with my Polish [Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau], Lithuanian [Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabrielius Landsbergis] and Belarusian Minister [Vladimir Makei] also with the Secretary General of the United Nations [António Guterres] in order to prepare the meeting. We had the opportunity to share with the Secretary General of the United Nations how things are going on the ground. I talked to the Belarussian Minister to tell him that the situation was totally unacceptable that humanitarian help has to be provided. And that we have to think about how we can solve the problem starting by stopping the [migration] flow. Stopping the flights. This is almost done.

“During these days we have been talking with countries of origin and transit. My colleague [Vice-President Margaritis] Schinas is in Bagdad. And I think that from my point of view, the inflow of things are becoming under control. But we have to provide humanitarian assistance to these people and to prevent any kind of hybrid attack against the European Union border. This is something that will take an important part of our meeting.

“But there are many other issues. The situation in the Western Balkans, in particular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where there are tendencies which are undermining the unity of the country and hampering its development, and its way towards the European Union. The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina also. And in general, the situation in the Balkans, which is not especially good.

“The Sahel will also be part of our work today. Last night, there was another attack in Burkina Faso. 20 more people dead, killed. Our security starts in the Sahel and we had to engage more with the region.

“We will talk also about the situation in Varosha, in Cyprus, in Syria; but mainly in Sudan and Ethiopia. We have to try to avoid [an] implosion of the country. The situation in Ethiopia is becoming worse by every moment and we will try to avoid the implosion of the country”.

Berlin: Russian diplomat found dead

Brussels 06.11.2021 Germany’s Foreign Ministry on Friday, November 5, confirmed the death of a diplomat outside the Russian Embassy in Berlin last month. News magazine Der Spiegel reported the 35-year-old was found early morning hours on October 19 after having fallen from an upper floor of the Embassy.

Police in Berlin declined to comment and referred questions to the public prosecutors.

The Russian Embassy had not agreed to an autopsy, according to sources in the security services cited by Der Spiegel. It was therefore unclear how the reported agent died.The man was officially serving at the Russian Embassy in the capacity of Second secretary. Der Spiegel reports the Embassy would only call it “a tragic accident” and added it would refrain from further comment “for ethical reasons.”

Bellingcat reports that the diplomat is the son of Gen. Alexey Zhalo, the Deputy director of the FSB’s Second Directorate and head of the FSB’s Directorate for Protection of Constitutional Order, which handles terrorism cases. Officers from the latter directorate shadowed Alexei Navalny prior to his poisoning.

Christo Grozev of Bellingcat told DW the diplomat’s death created “some confusion within the German security apparatus as to what this meant,” whether it was an accident or due to some internal power struggle or purge.

“It took the German authorities some time to figure out whether it was something to even talk about,” Grozev said.

EU: Borrell talks with Blinken in Washington

Brussels 15.10.2021 The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell met with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Thursday,October 14.

The European diplomat welcomed recent intense engagement with the U.S. Administration and expressed the importance to further deepen the EU-U.S. strategic partnership to jointly address foreign policy, security and global challenges. Further he welcomed, in particular, the launch of the Trade and Technology Council in Pittsburgh as a strong example of the shared commitment to work together to provide answers to some of today’s most pressing challenges.

Borrell and Blinken highlighted the intention to launch a dialogue on security and defence by the end of the year. The EU diplomat welcomed the setting up of this dedicated channel to discuss common security and defence challenges, building on the mandate agreed by the EU and U.S. Leaders at the EU-U.S. Summit in June. He welcomed the US support for a stronger and more capable European defence and stressed that stronger EU capabilities contribute positively to transatlantic and global security, and also strengthen NATO.

Both diplomats agreed to launch EU-U.S. consultations on the Indo-Pacific, with the aim to step up transatlantic cooperation and joint engagement in the region. They agreed to hold a first high-level meeting this year.

They welcomed the work done under the EU-US Dialogue on China and agreed to hold the next high-level meeting in December. They also agreed to launch the High-level Dialogue on Russia, with the first meeting planned to take place before the end of this year.

Borrell and Blinken discussed some of the most urgent foreign and security policy issues. They addressed, amongst others, the latest developments related to Afghanistan, with the High Representative underlining the utmost priority for the international community being to prevent the socio-economic collapse of the country and the need to work jointly on solutions for Afghan people.

They further discussed the opportunities for continued EU – U.S. partnership in the Western Balkans in support of the region’s progress on its European path, underlined the importance of EU-facilitated Dialogue in addressing issues related to the comprehensive normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo and, referring to recent developments, highlighted the need for de-escalation and re-engagement in negotiations. They agreed to further strengthen their cooperation on these matters.

The diplomats also discussed the situation in Venezuela and their strong will to support political processes to restore stability and democratic reconciliation in the country. In addition, they discussed the efforts towards stabilisation in the Sahel region.

They paid attention to high energy prices, the global impact of this crisis as well as the green energy transition. They looked forward to the next meeting of the EU-U.S. Energy Council early next year, agreed on the need for an ambitious outcome at the COP 26 climate conference.

Concluding the talks Josep Borrell once again has drawn attention to the modality of the relations between two partners. “The European Union and the United States share an important and unique relationship. We will continue to work closely not only because we are partners of first resort but also because friends and allies look at us and expect us to work together to address global challenges” the EU diplomat said.

Borrell heads to Washington D.C.

Brussels 13.10.2021 The European Union top diplomat Josep Borrell will travel to Washington D.C. from 13 to 15 October for a number of high-level meetings focused on the relationship between the EU and the USA, on advancing the Transatlantic agenda and on pressing international developments. This will be the first official visit by Borrell to Washington since the new US administration took up office. It takes place in the follow-up to a number of contacts already held by the EU diplomat and his US counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and in the follow-up to the EU-US summit held in Brussels in June.

In his talks with US partners Borrell will underline that strong alliance between the EU and US is key for addressing global challenges, such as pandemic and economic recovery, climate change and democratic backsliding, as well as to continue to uphold common values, ensure global security and prosperity.

On Thursday, 14 October Borrell will meet with Blinken to discuss current foreign policy issues and initiatives to deepen further the EU-US strategic partnership and advance an already close cooperation on foreign and security policy.

Later on, the EU diplomat will hold meetings with the US Deputy Secretary of Defence Kathleen Hicks to discuss how to pursue enhanced bilateral cooperation in the field of security and defence.

UK-Ireland: EU red lines

Brussels 10.10.2021 Ireland’s foreign minister has warned that the UK demands risk a “further breakdown in relations” with the European Union ahead of talks this week aimed at resolving the impasse over the Brexit agreement.(Image above: illustration, skyline).

Simon Coveney posted the remarks on Twitter after the UK’s Brexit minister reiterated his insistence that the European Court of Justice must not be allowed to oversee implementation of the deal. Coveney described this as a new “red line” that will impede progress in the negotiations.

The European Commission is expected this week to publish its proposals for breaking the deadlock over trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. that has a land border with the 27-nation bloc. The British government has sought to renegotiate part of its divorce deal with the EU that requires customs and border checks on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The regulations are intended to ensure goods entering the EU’s single market meet European standards while keeping an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process. But the checks have cause discontent of Northern Ireland’s unionists, who say they weaken the region’s ties with the rest of the UK and make it harder for businesses to operate.

NATO expels Russian diplomats

Brussels 07.10.2021 “There is a glaring discrepancy between NATO officials’ statements about their wish to normalize relations with our country and real actions. These actions, of course, leave no room for illusions regarding the normalization of relations and the resumption of the dialogue with NATO. These prospects are rather completely upset,” Peskov said.

NATO’s decision to expel Russian diplomats and accusations of hostile activity totally upset the chances for normalization of relations and a resumption of the dialogue, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Thursday, 7 October.

“There is a glaring discrepancy between NATO officials’ statements about their wish to normalize relations with our country and real actions. These actions, of course, leave no room for illusions regarding the normalization of relations and the resumption of the dialogue with NATO. These prospects are rather completely upset,” Peskov said.

NATO has decided to expel eight Russian diplomats and halve the size of Russia’s mission to the alliance in response to suspected “malign activities”, Sky News said on Wednesday, October 6.

The eight diplomats are expected to leave Brussels, where the alliance is headquartered, by the end of the month and their positions scrapped. Two other positions that are currently vacant will also be abolished, Sky News said.

“We can confirm that we have withdrawn the accreditation of eight members of the Russian Mission to NATO,” a NATO official said later.

EEAS: top diplomatic appointments

Brussels 07.09.2021 High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, announced the following appointment for a senior position in the European External Action Service (EEAS) today:

Olivier BAILLY as Director, Deputy Managing Director for Global Issues. He was previously Head of the Task Force on Vaccine Sstrategy in the EEAS. He also served as Head of Cabinet of former European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici. He took up his duties on 1 September 2021.

High Representative Josep Borrell also announced the appointments of three new Heads of Delegations and a Chargé d’Affaires of the European Union :

Rafael DOCHAO MORENO has been appointed as Chargé d’Affaires to Venezuela. He was previously Head of the EEAS Division Situation room. He also served as Head of Delegation of the European Union to Chile. Mr Dochao Moreno took up his duties on 1 September 2021.

Giacomo DURAZZO has been appointed as Head of Delegation of the European Union to Congo (Brazzaville). He was previously Head of Delegation of the European Union to Mauritania. Mr Durazzo took up his duties on 1 September 2021.

Henriette GEIGER has been appointed as Head of Delegation of the European Union to Kenya. She was previously Director for Human Development, Migration, Governance and Peace within the European Commission. Ms Geiger took up her duties at the EEAS on 16 August 2021.

Carla GRIJÓ has been appointed as Head of Delegation of the European Union to Cabo Verde. She was previously Deputy Director General in the Directorate General for European Affairs within the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ms Grijó took up her duties at the EEAS on 1 September 2021.

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