European Union External Action

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the Rome 2017 Mediterranean Dialogues

Brussels, 01/12/2017 - 20:10, UNIQUE ID: 171201_19

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the Rome 2017 Mediterranean Dialogues

Moderator: The EU is facing unprecedented challenges in the last few years. As of a year ago, you outlined a new global strategy for security and defence; this has also been followed by a series of different strategies, migration compacts and others. Could you please elaborate a bit on this strategy and where this vision for how the EU can address not only the internal challenges it is facing as an entity, but also how it can engage with the rest of the world at times of considerable global uncertainty.
FM: First of all let me say how glad I am to be here and to see so many friends in the room. It is always a pleasure to be back and also to see that Italy and Rome exercise this convening power around the Mediterranean that we really need in these times. So, good to be back home!


Indeed, one and a half years ago I presented the European Union Global Strategy and I remember very well that the mood at that time was not the best possible one. It was two days after the UK referendum, a few months before the US elections that brought quite some changes in the White House and in Washington and in the global scene, and people were talking about the European Union as being in the midst of crises, challenges, turmoil, to say it elegantly. Many were even saying this will be the beginning of the end and the European project will simply collapse.


One year and a half after that, we see that actually all around the world from Australia, to Central Asia, to Latin America, to the Mediterranean, to Africa - people are asking for Europe to be the reliable, strong partner that we are in the world. I am not saying this is thanks to the Global Strategy we presented, but this is because we might have many difficulties, many challenges to manage internally, but Europe has more than anything else a big strength, which is the fact that we are, first of all, reliable. People in the world might not like everything we do, sometimes we have big discussions about human rights or rule of law standards we promote around the world, but people can rely on us. And this, I think is, in these times of global uncertainties and challenges, serious ones, the most valuable element that a global player can bring to the global dynamics.


If you look at the reality of that, we are the most advanced area of the world when it comes to trade, we are the biggest market in the world, the biggest investor in the world, everywhere, the biggest donor when it comes to humanitarian aid or development assistance, we are increasingly a security provider - and maybe I say a few words on this –, and we are the main trade power in the world. Again, this is not just about economy, as it is always perceived, it is increasingly about diplomacy, prevention of conflicts, management of post-conflict situations and a certain way of conceiving international relations that I think is rooted in our history.


I think the turning point for the European Union's perception, self-perception, and its perception in the world, was actually here in Rome in March, when we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Rome treaties, where the 27 remaining Member States realised that what we risk to lose is not only 60 years of peace, but also a certain idea of living together. What is appreciated in the world about Europe, is not only its high standards, the quality of life, the culture, the economy, but it is mainly this thing that we realised mainly due to our history: making cooperation rather than confrontation more convenient.


And this is the real essence of the European Foreign Policy. The "win-win" rather than the "zero-sum game".  At the end of the day, the European Union started when we all realised that making business together was much more convenient than making war with each other. And this is a lesson that the rest of the world is interested in in these times. And that could apply to many different regions.


Europe has always been perceived as a soft power, and we are. We are the strongest soft power in the world. But people sometimes underestimate the fact that we are also a global security provider. I give you two examples: I was, one hour ago on the phone with the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea discussing with her how the European Union can support a peaceful way to get to the objective of a denuclearised Korean peninsula, through diplomacy but also through pressure - economic and diplomatic pressure. And that is security, because the nuclear threat today is a security threat that is worrying us much more than conventional threats.


Second example, the day before yesterday, I was in Abidjan at the African Union-European Union Summit. In Africa, the European Union, under the EU flag, has more than 10.000 women and men in uniform who are helping, training and supporting security forces of our partners in Africa to work on African approaches to security, countering terrorism, countering criminal networks and organisations, traffickers, and assisting peace and security in Africa in a way that nobody else does in the world. We have trained so far more than 30.000 African policemen - or policewomen, because there is always this gender angle that we try to bring in - judges, legal system reforms, security system reforms, in a way that always matches the hard power, but also the civilian approach that always needs to be mixed. I think that we have now positioned the European Union as a credible security player and exactly this month, two or three weeks ago, 23 Member States of the European Union notified, with a formal letter to me - after more than a year of work - of their intention to launch a permanent structured cooperation on defence.


Other two are going to join us. I see here my good friend [NATO Deputy Secretary General] Rose Gottemoeller; this is going hand in hand with an excellent and strengthened cooperation between the European Union and NATO. At the next European Council [14 December], we are going to have the most relevant step in the creation of the European Union of Defence and Security, which is the formal launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation. So, Member States investing together, researching together, buying together and operating together on the field in a way that was never done, that was always perceived as an important element of the European project, since 60 years. It has always failed, and today we have done it. I think that this can be a model also for expanding and deepening the work we do in our Union in other fields.
Q. How do you think that this role applies concretely on the ground, in the Mediterranean basin; is the main goal anti-terrorism, is it stemming migration and are we really sure that it can be sort of complementary to what NATO does rather than in competition?
The story about competition between the European Union and NATO has no ground. Maybe it belongs to the past, but as Jens Stoltenberg rightly referred to, “it is the ghost of the past”. We have to face realities of the present and the future, and this is what we are doing today. The best symbol of the fact that deepening and strengthening the European Union of Defence goes hand in hand with deepening and strengthening of the EU-NATO cooperation is the fact that the very same day – I think it is the 5 December - when we will most probably have the final decision on the Permanent Structured Cooperation legally, is also the day when both Councils – the European Union and NATO - will approve further sets of measures that we will do together, in the field of hybrid threats, maritime security etc.


So in the same week and the same days we take formal decisions on strengthening the European Union of Defence, capabilities and work in a way that is really historic, which was never done before; and in the same week, in the same days we are advancing the cooperation with NATO in an unprecedented historic way. So the two things are going together, because of one simple reason: we face the same challenges and we have different sets of instruments. NATO is mainly a military alliance, it is also a political alliance, but it is mainly a military alliance; which has strong military means and consolidated structures. The European Union is the only player in the world that matches some elements of hard power and some elements of capability, also of deployment on the ground, because there are places where we are deployed – think of Africa – where NATO is not. Because of the nature of the intervention we need, mixing in particular the civilian and the military work we do – I think of the training of the kind of force like the gendarmerie and the like. So the mix of defence, military, security, interior, justice, rule of law - that is a growing field of needs that our partners have.
And we have instruments that NATO does not have, that are purely non-military: think of the development cooperation angle that sometimes reinforces the work we do on the ground. What are the priorities? You mentioned the Mediterranean. First of all, let me say one thing very clearly, I would always refuse to consider the migration phenomenon as a security challenge. That is in a different box, we are talking about a global phenomenon there that is not a security threat. It is a humanitarian challenge that we have to face.


Talking about the security threats: what we are facing is clearly a terrorist activity that has internal and external implications. We have the nuclear threat that is coming back – and we thought that it is something belonging to the past. And we have the instability and I would say the temptation of going into geo-political games that especially in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, are extremely risky. And sometimes I have the impression that we are playing with fire, without realising that the fire could go further along the way. But again, I think that for Europe the main threat, the main challenge, that needs to be discussed is the prevention of conflicts, and the prevention of the exposure of large parts of population, especially in Africa and the Middle East, but also in Southeast Asia, to poverty, to deprivation of rights, to lack of access to resources, including to resources to developing their own lives, and radicalisation. And this is what requires this mix of elements and work, from the hard power, to the police, to the economic investments and development cooperation.


I give you one example: what is key for the EU is to develop the security in the Sahel. It is our close neighbourhood - for us, here in Rome this is quite easy to understand - but I also believe that this is understood in the North of Europe now. I am seeing this year, for the first time, a real understanding everywhere in Europe that Africa is a priority number one. The Estonian Presidency [of the Council] has done an enormous amount of activities, exactly to strengthen this European Union – African Union partnership. Again, take the Sahel: you need to train the security forces of these countries, and equip, sometimes, them to do the job, in an area that is the desert, very difficult to monitor, even for our European countries.


You have to have targeted development projects, to allow communities, and especially the young people of the area, to have opportunities for their life that prevent them falling into different kinds of activities, like the smuggling of people, drugs, arms or terrorist organisations. You have to fight climate change - that is a security challenge because desertification or climate change impact push people either away from their communities but also into different kind of activities rather than agricultural, traditional economic activities, so everything is linked. The purely military approach sometimes is needed but is never sufficient by itself.


And this is the European approach to security.
Moderator: This is a kind of perfect Segway to the Middle East. In a context where we are not only seeing withdrawal of the US, we are seeing greater Russian assertiveness in place like Syria but beyond that we see greater polarisation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and we saw what happened in Lebanon over the past few weeks with the (forced) resignation, not (forced) resignation of the Prime Minister of Lebanon, at the same time we have a situation in Syria where the current President seems to be staying: so, what role do you see for the EU in a situation where the kind of political processes that are being put in place may actually set us on a path to greater instability rather than greater stability?
I think the role of the European Union in the Middle East is quite clear. We have a traditional role there, that is the one that is often given for granted, the humanitarian one. I start from that because if you look at the amount of money - sorry if I get to trivial things – that the European Union and its Member States are putting into for instance assisting Syrians, both inside Syria and in other countries, it is probably more than the double of what all the rest of the world together has put into that. And this is not charity, this is a way of guaranteeing that Syrians survive because there will be no Syria without Syrians. And now, after so many years of war – and still the war is continuing – we have to remember that the fighting in some areas of Syria is still going on, still awful, still targeting civilians, and things are not back to normal. They are improving in certain areas, and this is good news. But the war is not over. We are not there yet. There are areas under siege, there are civilians under attack, and the first concern of the European Union is always the people. Some call us naïve, but for us, the value of life, of people comes first, always.
So, I start from that. We are the biggest humanitarian donor, and our role including in the Middle East – this is also true for other areas of the world – is first of all to keep people alive, to guarantee that people have access to education –children-, health assistance, food and water, and that their life continues, first. Again, somebody said “you are just a humanitarian player”- well, that's people, that's people's life, first.
Second, we have a fundamental role on the economic side. I remember, I think last year I was sitting here with Staffan [de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria] discussing the situation in Syria. And a lot of things has changed since then. But what has not changed is this idea we have developed together with the United Nations and with many others, and many of them I see in the room, of starting to prepare for peace in Syria, and the future of Syria and the region. The strongest possible leverage the Europeans can put on the table of the political process in Syria is again – sorry if I go back to trivial things – the money. A country like Syria, and the region, and the neighbours that have been hosting so many refugees for so many years, the local communities, would need an enormous amount of economic resources to restart normal life when peace will be reached. And again, I stress, we are not there yet.
We have started last year with the Brussels Conference that has now turned into a Brussels process; we will have a second conference in April 2018. And we will continue, because the reconstruction and the rehabilitation of Syria will last probably for years, when it will start. We have started this work to prepare the international community – the region but also the Syrian players – to look at ways in which we can start to support local reconciliation processes, local rehabilitation, the delivery of services, the going back to normal life in some areas where this is possible. And where is it? First, where the fighting has stopped and the ceasefire has started to work, the de-escalation zones. There are not many of them. And I would like to see the three guarantors of the Astana process – Turkey, Russia and Iran – to deliver more on what they have already started to achieve, in terms of bringing down the violence, but we need to see more of that. So, in areas where the situation comes down from the military point of view, in areas where political reconciliation and sharing of power start and communities come together, and the plurality of the identity of the Syrian people is recognised and welcomed. We can start financing the going back to normal life. It's not humanitarian, it's not yet the reconstruction – the reconstruction money will come at least from the European Union and the international community at large - only when a peace agreement will be reached in Geneva under the UN auspices. And that will require an enormous amount of resources.
But in between, if the de-escalation zones manage to bring calm to areas, we can start helping Syrians to have normal lives again. This would require a political environment that makes it possible to happen. And here – I would like to say – the role of United Nations is key. I know you heard [Foreign] Minister [of Iran, Mohammad Javad] Zarif yesterday and I think you will hear [Foreign] Minister [of the Russian Federation, Sergey] Lavrov this afternoon; a lot of talks about Sochi. I think that anyone that can bring any of the political players in Syria to come to Syria's negotiations on the future and on the transition in Syria, the future constitution, the elections, is very much welcome to do so. But, it has to be clear – to use a sentence that in Rome is quite popular – all roads lead to Geneva. And, that the political process is a UN-led process, that needs to deliver there.
Otherwise the credibility, the legitimacy and the sustainability of any outcome would simply not be there. We need to show the Syrians that we are able, as international community, to unite forces, and ask them to find ways of living together. I think it is not impossible, and I am quite encouraged by the round of talks that Staffan [de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria] has had in these hours in Geneva. We need to make clear that this is not a game, this is not a chessboard, where what is important is who has more influence over the other. This is a war with victims on the ground, with hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed, and with the country destroyed, and with the region close to be destroyed. So, we have to be responsible in Syria and understand that anyone that can contribute to finding a political solution has to come together under the UN umbrella and help that process to deliver.   
Moderator: Can you mention a few words on Lebanon?
I was meeting my Lebanese friends these days and they were saying – I don't know if this is an international saying but we found out that it's a Lebanese saying and an Italian saying, and Lebanon and Italy have many things in common, we understand each other well - Lebanon is like a cat, nine lives and probably many more. And like cats, you always land on feet, luckily. Because Lebanon could have been, and could be as always, the place where the EU sees and reads the entire dynamics of the region. If Lebanon finds its way it's because the region manages to live together. I would not go further than that, live together. Whenever there is a crisis in Lebanon, it's because the entire region is dragging into a major crisis.
And I was very worried over the last weeks, and I am very relieved and very happy that Prime Minister [of Lebanon, Saad] Hariri is back to Beirut. And that political parties, political forces, institutions, are joining in unity, which I know is a very difficult unity. But that's life, that's Lebanon, that's politics - we don't expect this to be easy. But, the fact that everybody is restarting to make institutions work – I understand that there would be normal work of institutions as of next weeks. I think that's an extremely important thing, also because – let me be very frank,  I visited Lebanon many times in these three years now and in this position, and obviously before also many times as an Italian minister – we finally got to the point this year, earlier this year, that a government was in place, and the cabinet was regularly meeting, an electoral reform was passed, a budget law was passed, the Parliament was working, the President was elected. After many years of stalemate, which still was allowing Lebanon to continue to function, because this is the magic of Lebanon. But finally we managed to have institutions in place, and working institutions in place - it would have been a disaster to see this going back.
I think that Lebanon has the wisdom and Lebanese political forces and people have the wisdom to understand that their policy of distancing themselves from regional conflicts is a wise one, that needs to be supported by all - and I see all supporting this, I think this is extremely important - to preserve the unique mix of everything that Lebanon is. And I think it is going to be essential in the coming days and weeks and months, heading to elections in Spring [2018] that the international community – starting from the European Union – will continue to support Lebanon on its way of wisdom, restraint and focus on the Lebanese people's priorities. I think it can be done. And I think that in the coming days we will have also further occasions to discuss about this together.  
Moderator: When we look at the Iran deal, clearly it has been a top priority for the EU, what can you do to salvage it if the US imposes snap-back sanctions in January?   
The nuclear deal we achieved with Iran is a key security priority for Europe, and for the region. President Trump mentioned in his speech on the US’ Iran Strategy that the Unites States will consult with allies on the way forward. And the message we have sent as the European Union and its Member States, all 28 extremely united, is this: preserving the nuclear deal with Iran and its full implementation, in all its parts, by all, is a key security priority for Europe. That is the starting point. Not because we are particularly friends; the deal has been negotiated and finalised in a way that actually contains so many provisions and so many elements of control with the most intrusive of system of verification from the IAEA  [International Atomic Economic Agency] exactly because there was not trust when we had the agreement. And this is 104 pages of detailed elements on every single aspect of nuclear activities. So anyone that thinks about renegotiating one chapter or another paragraph or line simply does not know what kind of box it is opening; every single word is linked to the previous and the next one and is something that was negotiated with an excellent technical team – and I have to say a word of praise for the European Union team that physically drafted every single word of the agreement-; simply does not understand the complexity of that.
So no possibility of renegotiating parts of it, even partially; it is a key priority for us to keep its full implementation. This is the message that I delivered to President Rouhani several times, last time in August during my visit to Tehran for his inauguration ceremony, and this is the message I am bringing to Washington: Europeans expect everybody to stay compliant with the agreement and to fulfil their commitment in full. This deal does not belong to one or another, it is a UN Security Council Resolution – to be technically right, an annex to an UN Security Council Resolution -; so you cannot get out of the deal, you cannot dismantle the deal. You can decide not to implement a UN Security Council resolution, and this is sovereign choice, but the deal is part of the UN system and is an international agreement. I was mentioning we just had the European Union-African Union Summit in Abidjan: the African Union was one of the first ones to release a statement after the announcement by President Trump of his decision not to certify, saying that the African Union expects the nuclear deal with Iran to stay. And they are not part to the agreement; but it belongs to the international community, and because it is working.
The IAEA has confirmed 9 times that Iran is fully compliant with all the commitments. So the deal is there to stay, does not belong to one or another but it requires commitment for all to be implemented. First of all from Iran, and again my message has always been very clear: as Europeans we except Iranian authorities to continue to fulfil strictly to the full implementation of the deal. And there are other things that we can discuss that are not under the scope of the agreement. The agreement was decided to be purely on nuclear issues; what is right, was it wrong, that is an historical debate now because the decision back 14 years ago was to limit the negotiations to purely nuclear related issues. Personally I would have probably thought that it would have been a good entry point to discuss also regional issues, because at the end of the day the problem is that the Middle East at large and the Gulf require to develop their own security architecture that makes it possible for neighbours to live together even if they don’t like each other, as we Europeans have done for decades, including the Cold War. This was not the choice made back then, it was decided to limit negotiations to purely nuclear aspects and now this is what we have. But dismantling an agreement that is working on nuclear related issues would not put any of us in a better position to discuss all the rest; regional dynamics, conflicts, missile programmes development and things like that.
Preserve the deal, keep what is working and let work in the same cooperative manner, which does not mean trust but finding the common grounds, on the rest.