Category Archives: EEAS

EU-Turkey relations «under strain»

«…On Turkey we had a long and interesting debate. At the end of it, I presented my conclusions, which were approved by the Council members. It is my conclusions that will conduct and drive my future actions as High Representative/Vice-President of the Commission » said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrel during the press-conference after the Council of the Foreign affairs ministers.

«We reiterated that we see Turkey as an important country for the European Union with whom we would [wish] to see our relations strengthened and developing. This should be done in respect of EU values, principles and interests.

«There was a consensus among Member States that the EU-Turkey relations are currently under continuous strain. There are worrying developments, in particular in the Eastern Mediterranean and regarding Libya that affect directly our interests. Thus, several serious issues must be addressed by Turkey in order to change the current confrontational dynamic and create an environment of trust with Turkey, which everybody wishes.

«But, we stress also that Turkey’s unilateral actions, in particular in the Eastern Mediterranean, which run counter to EU interests, to the sovereign rights of EU Member States and to international law, must come to an end.

«We recalled the previous Conclusions of the Council of 15 July 2019 on illegal Turkish drilling activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus and the 15 May 2020 Statement on the Eastern Mediterranean and reiterated that the situation that we were confronted [with] at the EU borders in early March 2020 must not be repeated.

«We also agreed to call on Turkey to contribute actively to a political solution in Libya and to respect the commitments it has taken in the framework of the Berlin process, including the United Nations arms embargo.

«We are doing our part – the European Member States are doing their part, in particular through Operation Irini, which provides a key contribution to ensure the respect of the arms embargo by all actors. We will consider ways to ensure the full effectiveness of the operation, with the aim of preventing escalation on the ground.

«An important issue was about Hagia Sophia. The Council has condemned the Turkish decision to convert such an emblematic monument as Hagia Sophia back to a mosque. This decision will inevitably fuel mistrust, promote renewed divisions between religious communities and undermine our efforts at dialogue and cooperation. There was broad support to call on the Turkish authorities to urgently reconsider and reverse this decision.

«All in all, the final conclusion is that there was clearly a broad support for me to explore further paths that could contribute to lowering tensions and reach understandings on issues that are increasingly stressing the relations between Turkey and the European Union.

«Also, I will prepare options on further appropriate measures that could be taken in response to the challenges we are facing as a result of Turkish actions, including in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the meantime, work will also continue on additional listings within the existing sanctions framework as requested by Cyprus.

«I agreed to report back to the [Foreign Affairs] Ministers at the informal meeting at the end of August, which will also have Turkey on its agenda.

Sanctions are always an instrument to achieve a goal, but they are not a policy in themselves. The Council [of Foreign Affairs] considered that there are Council conclusions on illegal Turkish drillings and, at the same time, expressed their will to defuse tensions and make clear that Member States’ sovereignty and sovereignty rights should be respected in accordance with these Council conclusions and international law.

One thing is dialogue and another thing are negotiations. The Council expressed a broad support –I want to be very much precise with the wording I am going to use- to explore further paths that could contribute to lowering tensions and reach understandings on issues that are increasingly stressing the relationship. It is a way of offering to continue exploring ways of reaching understandings.

But, at the same time, the Council has also asked that options have to be prepared on measures that could be taken in response to the challenges we are facing. For sure, there are Council conclusions and on the implementation of these Council conclusions technical work will continue at the technical level on additional listings within the existing sanctions framework as requested by Cyprus”.

Responding to the questions of the international press Josep Borrell added: “We do not want to anticipate a situation in which we could have an increase of tensions. The wording I used is absolutely clear and it is a general answer to all these kind of questions. We are going to explore further paths that could contribute to lower tensions. For sure drillings in Greek waters disputed by Turkey would be something that could increase tensions. At the same time, we will prepare options and further appropriate measures that could be taken in response to the challenges that we are facing as a result of Turkey’s actions.

Borrell «regrets» Hagia Sophia transformation

«Hagia Sophia has a strong symbolic, historical and universal value. Turkey has developed a well-established tradition of cultural conservation as well as a recognised tradition of intellectual and cultural openness. The ruling by the Turkish Council of State to overturn one of modern Turkey’s landmark decisions and President Erdoğan‘s decision to place the monument under the management of the Religious Affairs Presidency, is regrettable. As a founding member of the Alliance of Civilisations, Turkey has committed to the promotion of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue and to fostering of tolerance and co-existence» reads the text of the declaration of the top EU diplomat Josep Borrell.

Unlike the French Minister of Foreign Affaris Jean-Yves Le Drian, Borrell continues to name the Christian baslilque by its Turkish name «Hagia Sophia» while French diiplomacy is refering to the site under its original name «Saint Sophia». The EU diplomacy position also differs, while pointing to universal, historic, and cultural value, omitting the religious symbolism of the basilique for Orthodx Chrisitanity.

President Maduro expels EU Ambassador

President Nicolás Maduro has ordered the European Union’s Ambassador H.E. Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa (pictured) to leave Venezuela within 72 hours.

In his announcement on Juin 29 broadcast on state television, speaking of the EU, Mr Maduro said: “If they can’t respect Venezuela, then they should leave it.”
He added: “A plane can be loaned for her [Pedrosa] to leave.” Venezuela’s air space is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The diplomat expulsion came hours after the EU placed sanctions on 11 Venezuelan officials for acting against the National Assembly headed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

Juan Guaidó declared himself interim President of Venezuela last year but has failed to remove Mr Maduro.
The opposition leader has the backing of the EU and the US.

EU-China Summit videoconference

European Union and China held their 22nd bilateral Summit via videoconference on 22 June 2020. President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, accompanied by High Representative Josep Borrell, hold the Summit meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang followed by exchanges with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

EU-China relations have evolved in recent years. Our economic interdependency is high, and we must work together on global challenges like climate action, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals or dealing with COVID-19. Engaging and cooperating with China is both an opportunity and necessity. But, at the same time, we have to recognise that we do not share the same values, political systems, or approach to multilateralism. We will engage in a clear-eyed and confident way, robustly defending EU interests and standing firm on our values” President Michel said.

The COVID-pandemic and a number of major bilateral and multilateral challenges show clearly the EU – China partnership is crucial, be it in terms of trade, climate, technology, and the defence of multilateralism. But for our relations to develop further, they must become more rules-based and reciprocal, in order to achieve a real level playing-field” President von der Leyen said.

The EU-China summit had a comprehensive agenda addressing bilateral relations; regional and international issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery.

The EU recalled the important commitments made at the 2019 EU-China Summit and stressed the need for the implementation of these commitments in a dynamic and result oriented manner as progress today is limited.

The EU strongly emphasised the need to advance negotiations for an ambitious EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement that addresses the current asymmetries in market access and ensures a level playing field.. Urgent progress is needed in particular on behaviour of State-Owned Enterprises, transparency on subsidies and rules tackling forced transfers of technology.

On economic and trade issues, the EU recalled the joint commitment to work constructively and expeditiously towards the resolution of a number of market access and regulatory issues. The EU welcomed confirmation by China that the recent China-US “phase 1” deal will be implemented in full compatibility with World Trade Organisation (WTO) obligations and without discrimination against EU operators. The EU recalled its expectation that European exporters immediately benefit from trade facilitating measures in the agri-food sector.

The EU reiterated the urgent need for China to engage in future negotiations on industrial subsidies in the WTO, and address overcapacity in traditional sectors such as steel as well as high-tech areas.

The EU is looking forward to the signature of the EU-China Agreement on Geographical Indications in coming weeks and entry into force in nearest future.

The Summit was also an opportunity to discuss the importance of the digital sector to economies and societies worldwide. The EU stressed that the development of new digital technologies must go hand in hand with the respect of fundamental rights and data protection. The EU also raised outstanding issues on cybersecurity, disinformation.

Leaders had a substantive discussion on climate change. China is the EU’s partner under the Paris Agreement, but needs to commit to decisive and ambitious domestic action to reduce emissions in the short term and to set a goal of climate neutrality at the earliest possible date.

The EU called on China to assume greater responsibility in dealing with global challenges through the rules-based international system, promoting international peace and security, and adhering to international standards to support sustainable development, especially in Africa.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU underlined the shared responsibility to participate in global efforts to stop the spread of the virus, boost research on treatments and vaccines, and support a green and inclusive global recovery. The EU stressed the need for solidarity in addressing the consequences in developing countries, notably as regard debt relief. The EU also called on China to fully participate in the independent review of lessons learned from the international health response to COVID-19, mandated by the resolution adopted at the last World Health Assembly. The EU also called on China to facilitate the return of EU residents in China.

On Hong Kong, the EU reiterated its grave concerns at steps taken by China to impose national security legislation from Beijing and considers those steps not in conformity with the Hong Kong Basic Law and China’s international commitments, and put pressure on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the population protected by the law and the independent justice system.

The EU raise its concerns on the deteriorating human rights situation, including the treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and of human rights defenders, as well as restrictions on fundamental freedoms. The EU also underlined its expectation that the Human Rights Dialogue will take place in China later in the year once the COVID-19 restrictions are eased. EU Leaders raised a number of individual cases, including the reports on citizens who have disappeared after reporting/expressing their views on the handling of the Coronavirus outbreak, as well as the continued arbitrary detention of Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and two Canadian citizens – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The EU and China exchanged views on a number of regional and international issues, including Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal), Afghanistan as well as situation on the Korean Peninsula. The EU expressed concerns about the escalation of other regional conflicts and the importance of upholding international law in the maritime domain. We agreed to continue contacts in the future

EU acts against COVID-19 desinvormation

European Commission and the High Representative Josep Borrell are evaluating their measures to combat disinformation around the coronavirus pandemic and propose a way forward in a joint communication. It analyzes the immediate reaction and proposes concrete actions, the execution of which can start quickly.

“In these times of coronavirus, disinformation can kill. We have a duty to protect our citizens by raising awareness of the existence of false information and to point the finger at the actors responsible for such practices. In today’s technology-based world where warriors wield the keyboard rather than the sword and where targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns are a recognized weapon used by state and non-state actors, the Union European is increasing its activities and its capacities to fight against these practices” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said.

Vera Jourová, Vice President of Values and Transparency, said: “There have been waves of disinformation in Europe since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. They come both from the territory of the EU and from outside. To combat disinformation, we need to mobilize all relevant actors, from online platforms to public authorities, and support fact checkers and independent media. Online platforms have taken positive steps during the pandemic, but need to step up their efforts. Our actions are deeply rooted in fundamental rights, in particular freedom of expression and information. The coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a strong wave of false or misleading information, including attempts by foreign actors to influence citizens and debates in the EU. The crisis is testing how the EU and its democratic societies are taking up the challenge of disinformation. The following aspects are crucial for a stronger and more resilient Union: understanding the phenomenon, communicating, cooperating, ensuring transparency, guaranteeing freedom of expression and a pluralist democratic debate and empowering citizens. The actions proposed today will feed future EU work on disinformation, in particular the Action Plan for European Democracy and legislation on digital services. The press release is available here as well as a related fact sheet and the EUvsDisinfo website”.

 

EU €55M aid to Syria refugees

As part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis has mobilised an additional €55 million for refugees from Syria and vulnerable persons in Jordan and Lebanon to fight the pandemic. It will provide critical and targeted support in key areas such as health, water, sanitation and hygiene. The newly adopted package brings the total assistance mobilised through the EU Trust Fund to over €2.2 billion since 2015, doubling the target originally set.

“Jordan and Lebanon are showing huge resilience and solidarity in hosting Syrian refugees. It is our duty to continue supporting them, especially in the current coronavirus pandemic situation. The EU will host the fourth Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region on 30 June in direct support of the UN efforts for a comprehensive political solution to the Syrian conflict and to mobilise necessary financial support for Syria and neighbouring countries. The Conference will also continue to provide a unique platform for dialogue with civil society organisations from the region,” High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security  Josep Borrell, said.

“Our continued commitment to support Syrian refugees and partner countries like Jordan and Lebanon hosting them remains unwavering. We are responding today to the urgent needs in fighting the COVID-19 crisis with a substantial and targeted assistance package. Despite the European Union’s continued strong solidarity with partner countries, the needs of the Syrian refugees continue to be important and cannot be neglected. In this regard, the 2020 Brussels IV Conference will provide an opportunity for the international community to mobilise the necessary financial assistance” Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, commented.

JCPOA: EU regrets U.S. ends projects in Iran

“We deeply regret the U.S. decision to end the three waivers covering key JCPOA nuclear projects in Iran, including the Arak Modernisation Project. These projects, endorsed by UN Security Council resolution 2231, serve the non-proliferation interests of all and provide the international community with assurances of the exclusively peaceful and safe nature of Iranian nuclear activities” reads the Joint statement by spokespersons of the High Representative of the EU and the Foreign Ministries of France, Germany and the United Kingdom on the JCPOA.

“We are consulting with our partners to assess the consequences of this decision by the United States.

“The JCPOA is a key achievement of the global non-proliferation architecture and currently the best and only way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. That is why we have worked continuously with the aim of ensuring the full and effective implementation of commitments under the JCPOA, in particular the return of Iran to full compliance with its nuclear commitments without delay”.

The Trump administration has ended the sanctions waivers that made possible to Russian, Chinese and European companies to do work at sensitive Iranian nuclear sites, following a conflict between Iranian hard-liners and a more rigorous insiders of the U.S. government, according to U.S. officials and documents obtained and refered to by The Washington Post.

Image: illustration

EU diplomacy discusses Israeli-Palestinian conflict

EU ministers of foreign affairs today on May 15 held a video conference, chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell.

They had an in-depth discussion on the Middle East Peace Process. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a priority and in the strategic interest of the European Union.

Josep Borrell first had a comprehensive discussion on the Middle East Peace Process in the context of the formation of a new government in Israel. Ministers expressed their willingness to work comprehensively and constructively with the new government once it is sworn in, but also reaffirmed their support for a negotiated two state solution.

Foreign affairs ministers also had a discussion on the Southern Neighbourhood and situation in the wider Middle East, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this context ministers expressed their concern about the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic, and agreed that the current crisis is an opportunity to reflect on the EU’s relations with the region in the medium and long term.

Then ministers approved a statement about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

EU maintains operational presence

EU Defence Ministers discussed the security and defence implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing in particular on the crucial role played by armed forces in supporting civilian actors and providing cross-border support among member states. In this context the Task Force that was established at the last video conference of Defence Ministers on 6 April has worked closely with member states to ensure the exchange of information and best practices.

EU Ministers of defence on May 12 held a video conference, chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.

Ministers concurred that the EU should continue to do its utmost to maintain the operational presence on the ground of its Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations, while preserving the safety of the personnel deployed.

They also underlined the need to strengthen preparedness and resilience for the future by conducting exercises, strengthening work on cybersecurity and countering hybrid threats including enhancing efforts to counter disinformation.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and UN Under-Secretary General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix provided an update on ongoing work in their organisations. They discussed with ministers defence cooperation in tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

Borrell: Afghan people deserve peace

“There are few words that can do justice to the horrors we have witnessed today in Afghanistan. At the same moment an attack was targeting a maternity ward in Kabul, a terrorist detonated his bomb in the middle of a funeral in Nangarhar. Dozens of innocent civilians were killed or injured in these most reprehensible acts of terror” reads the statement by the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell on two attacks targeting civilians in Kabul and Nangarhar.

“To target and kill mothers, newly born babies and nurses, as well as bereaved and mourning families, are acts of evil and show an appalling degree of inhumanity. The attack on the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital maternity ward, run by Médecins Sans Frontières, also seems to have targeted international aid workers. The European Union stands in solidarity with them. These acts constitute clear violations of International Humanitarian Law, for which the perpetrators will have to bear the consequences. Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones and we wish those who were injured a quick recovery.

“The Afghan people deserve peace. For too long has their country been ripped apart by terrorism and violence that no political objective can ever justify. A permanent ceasefire is absolutely vital, and the European Union calls on all stakeholders in Afghanistan and the region to make it a reality.”

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