First, I would like to thank President Tabaré Vázquez for kindly hosting the first meeting of the International Contact Group, as well as the representatives of Germany, Bolivia, Costa Rica, France, Ecuador, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Sweden for joining us in this initiative.
It is our common concern for the situation in Venezuela that brings us here today. We may have different points of view and understandings of the causes of this crisis, but we share a similar objective: to contribute to a political, peaceful and democratic solution. This is not just the best outcome, it is also the only possible outcome if we want to avoid more suffering and a chaotic and dangerous process.
In the EU, we have been exploring the idea of a contact group for a few months. In view of the latest developments, the European Union and its Member States decided to accelerate the process because it is necessary to react and to try to open new political spaces.
I have informed the United Nations, the permanent members of the Security Council, the Holy See, several countries in the region and other international actors about the establishment of this contact group and I intend to continue those contacts.
The objective of this group is neither to impose processes or solutions on the Venezuelans – it is clear that the solution to this crisis must come from the people of Venezuela – nor is it to establish a mediation or a direct negotiation. However, we believe an international initiative is important to accompany a peaceful and democratic way out of the current crisis through free, transparent and credible presidential elections.
To this end, a common and concerted approach from regional and international actors is crucial. This is also the intention of this group: to promote a common understanding of the situation in the country and a concerted approach from the international community.
We have an urgent task to accomplish and this urgency comes from the worsening of the situation that risks destabilising the entire region – and not only the region. One million Venezuelans are also European citizens. Millions of people have already left the country, and many more are fleeing in these hours. It is crucial therefore to avoid internal violence and external intervention, and to open a path for a political process leading to early elections.
We also need to ensure a common understanding and approach to humanitarian assistance. We all know that the country is in dire need of assistance, and we all know that the needs will keep increasing. But we need to ensure that this assistance is channelled in the best and most efficient way.
We shall try today to have a common understanding among ourselves on the key aspects of the situation in the country, and also on the minimum conditions for a political transition process, leading to elections, and how the group can best be used to promote those conditions.
Without further ado, I look forward to a fruitful discussion and I would like to underline that in the exchanges, rather than focusing on the different starting points that we might have, we should always focus on what brings us together here and the common final goal: a peaceful and democratic Venezuela and a peaceful and democratic region.