Delegation of the European Union to Israel

Informal video conference of EU Foreign Affairs Ministers: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell upon arrival

Brussels, 19/04/2021 - 11:22, UNIQUE ID: 210419_14

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This is going to be an informal meeting, because it is going to take place via video conference due to the COVID-19 constraints once again.

But the fact that it is going to be an informal meeting does not mean that we are not going to have important issues to deal with. In fact, there are two blocs.

First, the issues related with Russia. Starting with the Czech expulsion of Russian diplomats; we will be informed by our Czech colleague [Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jan Hamáček].

Continuing with the situation of Mr [Alexei] Navalny, which is very worrisome. I got a letter from his team. We are very much worried about the health situation of Mr Navalny. Yesterday we issued a statement on behalf of the 27 EU Member States asking the Russian authorities to provide the healthcare he needs. They are responsible for his safety. I travelled to Moscow some weeks ago to put the question on the table, our request was not heard, now the situation is becoming worse. We hold the Russian authorities responsible for the health situation of Mr Navalny.

And third, the situation at the Ukrainian border with the deployment of the Russian troops, with the live fire exercises, which is a very dangerous situation and we call on Russia to withdraw their troops on the Ukrainian border. We have been inviting the Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine, Mr [Dmytro] Kuleba who will explain to our colleagues, to the members of the Council, which is the situation there. All in all, the relations with Russia are not improving; on the contrary, the tension is increasing on different fronts.

And the second thing we are going to talk about is Ethiopia. We will listen to the report of the Finnish Minister [of Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto], I asked him to go as my envoy to visit the region and to talk with the authorities – Ethiopian authorities - and in the neighbour countries.

I have to say the situation is not improving. The Eritrean troops are still there, in spite of all the promises of the Ethiopian government to withdraw them. Humanitarian access has not been fulfilled.

We are very much concerned about the situation in Tigray, where we are witnessing events that never should have been happening. We call for an independent investigation of the responsibilities, but mainly and most importantly immediate and full access of humanitarian help. Something that has been promised and until now not fulfilled. So, we are going to talk about Ethiopia. I hope that Member States will, not today because it is informal, but will study a decision to take in case that the Ethiopian government does not fulfil its promises about the situation in Tigray.

Thank you.

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