I will start with Libya: I debriefed the [Foreign Affairs] Ministers on my visit to Tripoli on Saturday, where I inaugurated the European Union offices that will host both the European Union Delegation and the staff from EUBAM (EU Border Assistance Mission in Libya), our mission that is supporting Libyan authorities in their work on managing their borders - in particular, land borders - and I had the pleasure to meet some of our staff that is already there.
The strong signal we are giving is that the European Union, which has always been present in Libya through political and financial support, is now also physically back in Tripoli. So our daily work with the Libyan authorities, with the municipalities, with the civil society, with the UN agencies is going to be strengthened on a daily basis and this was welcomed by all Ministers.
Let me remind you that we have with Libya a strong political partnership, strong EU support for the country itself, with over €350 million of ongoing programs financed by the European Union and mainly run by UN agencies and civil society in Libya, including a strong component on women empowerment - I want to stress this because the Ministers and I discussed this point during the meeting today.
This to say that even though on the media most of the attention when it comes to Libya is linked to migratory issues, most of our conversation today with the Ministers and most of our work with the Libyan authorities and with the Libyan people is actually focused on Libya itself.
First of all, supporting the political process in Libya. The work the UN Special Representative [for Libya, Ghassan] Salamé is doing to prepare the elections is very much supported by the European Union. We believe that the work towards elections must be accelerated and we are supporting it ourselves; we are supporting the Electoral Commission and we believe that a proper constitutional and legal framework must be prepared before the elections take place.
We also discussed and worked a lot on the economic situation. That is what counts the most for the Libyan people. In particular, we witnessed in the recent weeks a crisis on the diversion of resources in the Oil Crescent. Luckily - and thanks to a lot of work that has been done in a coordinated manner - the current crisis has been overcome. But we agreed, both with our Libyan counterparts but also with the [Foreign Affairs] Ministers today, that we will increase our work together with the United Nations to end distortions of revenues and ensure that the revenues deriving from oil can be distributed in a transparent manner.
On migration, as I said, this is not the main focus of our work with Libya, but still is a work that is ongoing. We agreed with the Ministers to keep our focus based on cooperation and partnership with Libya, but most of all with the United Nations agencies, the IOM and the UNHCR and the African Union.
I will give you two numbers that show us that the work that we started this last year has brought results. One is the number of migrants from third countries that have been returned voluntarily, in an assisted manner by the IOM with European Union financial support from inside Libya to their countries of origin: that is 28,000 people in the last months - more than all taken together in the previous years, I would say. So this work needs to be sustained and consolidated. And the second number I would like to give you is that arrivals to European coasts from Libya have gone down by 85 percent compared to the same period of last year.
I think this shows us clearly that the work we have started to do together last year is finally bringing results. Obviously, it needs to be continued and consolidated. This requires also resources and the Foreign Ministers committed to contribute more on the financial side, especially to the Trust Fund for Africa. And we will continue also our work with a G5 Sahel.
We also had a point on the agenda on the Eastern Partnership, let me move to that. We will have a Ministerial Meeting with all the six of our Eastern partners on 15 October. Today was an important moment to take stock of our work after the Summit that took place here in November and to prepare the Ministerial. We see clear progress in our relations with all the six partners.
We had a good Summit with Ukraine just a week ago. We had a Partnership Council - the first ever Partnership Council - with Armenia at the end of June. I had the pleasure to meet the new Prime Minister [of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan] last week. With Azerbaijan we initialled the Partnership Priorities also last week, with the Foreign Minister [of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov] and myself. We see recent developments in Moldova actually as very worrying, while with Belarus there are some encouraging steps.
We are working very closely together with each of them to implement the decisions that were taken for developing 20 projects, concrete projects, 20 deliverables for 2020. And let me say also that I believe this is an important day to reconfirm something that was very strongly underlined by all Ministers today: the European Union's firm, consolidated position on the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of our Eastern partners.
Last but not least, we had with the Ministers an update on the situation in DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]. I had myself the chance of discussing developments there with [US Secretary of State, Mike] Pompeo last week and also with the Foreign Ministers of Japan [Tarō Kōno] and South Korea [Kang Kyung-wha] during these days on the phone. We are united, as the European Union and Member States, to support both processes that are underway.
On one hand, the denuclearisation process that is led by the United States together with Pyongyang, where we would stress the need to have full denuclearisation, irreversible denuclearisation and verified denuclearisation before any sanction is lifted. So we will keep our economic pressure there. If I can give you an example, with Iran we lifted the nuclear-related sanctions not just at the end of the twelve years of negotiation on the agreement, but after the agreement was implemented on the Iranian side. So we are talking about a long way to go. Pressure will be maintained, but at the same time we will support with all possible means - political means, first of all - the political and diplomatic track. We believe there is no other way than diplomacy and dialogue to bring the peninsula to a denuclearisation.
We will also support with all our means the intra-Korean dialogue. I discussed this this morning with the Foreign Minister of Seoul [Kang Kyung-wha] and we will meet soon in Asia. So also in this the European Union can be a reliable partner for our friends in Seoul.
Maybe just two points that were not on our agenda but that we addressed during the meeting.
One is the situation in Gaza, where we have seen a very worrying escalation with the heaviest rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli attacks since 2014. And we all agreed to use all our channels to urge the parties to take a step back, stop the violence, prevent another war and alleviate the situation for the people on the ground. We believe the only way is to support the UN and Egypt in their effort to revive the Palestinian reconciliation. We are working very closely, together with the UN, with Egypt, but also with Norway as the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee chair.
And then, last but not least, let me inform you that today the [Foreign Affairs] Council has endorsed the update of the Blocking Statute's Annex proposed by the European Commission following the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. This is a very welcome step from the [Foreign Affairs] Council, from my side. It gives us a consistent step forward in the set of measures that the European Union has put in place to make sure that the economic benefits deriving from the nuclear deal can continue to be in place for Iran.
Q. You debriefed the Council on the Joint Commission [of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal] meeting in Vienna and you had a meeting with Mr [Mike] Pompeo [Secretary of State of the United States] last Friday. The US Secretary of State and his colleagues of the Treasury have answered France, Great Britain and Germany's letter, that the United States refuse any exemption even for the healthcare. Do you think that with this American tough line, the impact of the measures you are taking with Russia or China will be limited, whatever you do and whatever your good intention or diplomatic effort is, and in the end that Iran will be left to choose whether to accept to implement the agreement or not? Because in the end, it is as Mr Zarif said: it is in their interest to keep the nuclear deal.
I have seen the reply that was addressed also to me as we wrote the letter together. I have to say I have not seen anything new in the reply, apart from the already very well-known US policy, so no surprises not for good nor for bad. The set of measures we have been putting in place both at the European Union level, at Member States' level and at third countries' level and that we have discussed in Vienna last 6 July seemed to be, to me but also to all of us including, I believe, the Iranian counterparts, an interesting set of measures that can allow us to guarantee that Iran continues to benefit from the economic benefits coming from the implementation of the agreement as it has always been foreseen by the agreement itself. So, I do not see this reply as bringing anything new to the work we are doing.
Q: Sulla Libia, tema di cui avete discusso oggi. Questa mattina il Ministro dell'Interno italiano [Matteo] Salvini è tornato a chiedere all'Unione europea di riconoscere i porti libici come porti sicuri. Uscendo dalla riunione del Consiglio [Affari Esteri], il sottosegretario italiano agli Esteri [Emanuela Claudia] Del Re ha detto che l'Italia sta lavorando per rendere i porti libici sicuri. Inoltre, nei giorni scorsi il premier italiano [Giuseppe] Conte aveva annunciato per l'autunno una conferenza sulla Libia da tenere in Italia, nella quale coinvolgere anche gli Stati Uniti, per dare seguito alla Conferenza di Parigi. Vorrei capire, innanzitutto, sulla questione dei porti libici se ci sono le condizioni, se e quando ci saranno e cosa bisogna fare per fare in modo che ci siano queste condizioni, per dichiarare tali i porti libici. E poi su questa conferenza sulla Libia che il governo italiano ha intenzione di organizzare se voi siete in qualche modo stati coinvolti e se avete intenzione di contribuire.
A: Innanzitutto, sui porti la decisione rispetto al fatto che i porti libici non siano porti sicuri è una decisione della Corte Europea dei Diritti dell'Uomo, quindi è una valutazione puramente giuridica, sulla quale non c'è decisione politica da prendere; ma è puramente nella mani appunto di una corte indipendente ed ha i suoi metodi di valutazione puramente basati sullo stato di diritto e sulla legge. Oltretutto, è stata una questione che l'Italia oggi non ha sollevato durante il Consiglio [Affari Esteri], cosi come non è stata sollevata dall'Italia neanche la prospettiva di una conferenza sulla Libia.
Siamo chiaramente disponibili a lavorare per tutte le iniziative, in Europa o nella regione, che possano aiutare il processo politico guidato dalle Nazioni Unite. E su questo c'è stata una convergenza totale degli Stati Membri oggi. È quello che ho discusso con [il Rappresentante Speciale del Segretario Generale delle Nazioni Unite per la Libia] Ghassan Salamé, con [il Primo ministro del Governo di Accordo Nazionale della Libia Fayez] Serraj, sabato a Tripoli, come fare in modo che l'Europa per quello che riguarda, ma anche il resto della comunità internazionale, il resto degli attori regionali possano accompagnare la Libia sulla strada di elezioni. Ma non solo elezioni: elezioni con un contesto costituzionale e legale definito ed elezioni, soprattutto, che siano preparate in modo tale per cui tutti gli interlocutori politici accettino il risultato delle elezioni il giorno dopo le elezioni. Questo è il vero punto sul quale c'è bisogno di lavorare e su questo c'è unità dell'Unione Europea, c'è unità del nostro lavoro con le Nazioni Unite e credo anche con il resto dei vicini della Libia, del mondo arabo e anche dell'Unione Africana, coi quali siamo in stretto collegamento. Qualsiasi conferenza, qualsiasi iniziativa che vada in questa direzione sicuramente ci vedrà giocare un ruolo importante.
Q. A question about the Trump-Putin meeting: obviously, we saw a number of Ministers coming in this morning saying that they were a little surprised to be described as the "foe" of the United States and that it did not seem entirely appropriate. I wonder if that came up in the meeting, if there was any discussion, any kind of looking back at the NATO drama to see how that has affected how Europe feels about the US?
This was not on our agenda but obviously we are not operating in a vacuum. By the way, I have suggested to the Ministers to discuss transatlantic relations in light of the next meetings that we will have, maybe already next month. I would not say that there is a drama atmosphere here. Here, we are very clear on who are our friends, and as I said earlier this morning, for the European Union, for Europe, the United States of America are and will continue to be a friend. This does not change with a change in administration and this is very clear. Having said that, we will see what comes out of the Trump-Putin meeting today. I hope that they can agree at least on one thing that could be extremely useful for the rest of the world, which is their own agreements on arms control. I think this is a global expectation and something on which they have direct control on, on both sides. So, I hope that this can be an outcome of the meeting, that would be a concrete and positive outcome to be welcomed. On the rest, we will see.
Q. Sur la Libye: à plusieurs reprises, les garde-côtes libyens ou les autorités libyennes ont demandé à ce qu'on leur livre des navires, des équipements militaires, des armes, différents dispositifs. Est-ce que vous avez décidé, est-ce que ces matériels pourront-ils être livrés, est-ce que l'Europe va les financer d'une manière directe ou indirecte, et quel est le support que vous pourrez leur apporter pour qu'ils aient le contrôle entier de leurs côtes?
Premièrement, comme vous le savez très bien, l'Union européenne est en train d'entraîner les garde-côtes libyens, nous sommes prêts à commencer un nouveau cycle d'entraînement. C'est une activité qui est beaucoup appréciée par les autorités libyennes – j'en ai parlé avec [le Premier Ministre, Fayez] Sarraj – et nous avons décidé de continuer cette activité.
En ce qui concerne les navires et l'équipement, ce sont les Etats membres, dans le contexte européen, qui sont en train de donner ce qui est nécessaire et je peux partager avec vous le fait que j'ai proposé aux Ministres, comme je l'avais déjà proposé aux chefs d'état ou de gouvernement au Conseil européen de la fin juin, de mettre à disposition les ressources – qui sont d'ailleurs très minimes - pour que l'opération Sophia puisse être présente avec une petite présence physique à Tripoli pour faire le suivi des garde-côtes que nous avons entraîné.
Il y a comme toujours un plein soutien politique mais après, je ne vois pas arriver l'argent. Donc j'espère que les Etats membres seront conséquents dans leurs préoccupations et j'espère pouvoir avoir les ressources disponibles d'ici à quelques jours, quelques semaines – mais l'été est déjà bien avancé - pour pouvoir faire le suivi de l'entrainement et avoir une petite présence à Tripoli pour faire le suivi du travail que les garde-côtes sont en train de faire; ce qui sera important non seulement pour l'aspect opérationnel mais aussi pour le respect des standards des droits de l'homme.
Q. There is quite a wide discussion ongoing on introducing Qualified Majority Voting in the Foreign Affairs Council. Could you give us an update on that, including indicating which Member States or groups of Member States are in favour and which are against and for what reasons?
I can tell you only one thing that comes out of my experience over these last almost 4 years of chairing Foreign Ministers' meetings or Defense Ministers' meetings, I would say, on average more than once a month, if you put together the three ministerial meetings I chair: we never, never in these almost four years had a problem of unanimity for adopting conclusions. I do not exclude that this could become a problem in the future, but today, unanimity in the Council for what concerns Foreign Ministers, Defence ministers - even on defence, we have decided by unanimity on European defence with the UK still in - and this continues to be the case, unanimity, in taking decisions, so far, has never been a problem. If I can indicate a problem, it is a problem of consistency: once decisions are taken, to implement them together, to put resources when they are needed and to do things together after decisions are made. But I have not seen, so far, a problem of unanimity in this field. On other issues, yes, indeed, but these are not Councils that fall under my responsibility.
Q. Back to the JCPOA: how confident are you, given the huge pressure coming from the United States? For all we know, President [of the United States Donald] Trump could be talking to President [of the Russian Federation Vladimir] Putin about it today. How confident are you that the measures you are introducing will succeed, given that pressure? Could you give us a sort of timeline in terms of what happens next. I believe the first sanctions from the United States are due to kick in towards the end of the first week of next month, and then more sanctions coming in November. If you could just give us some sort of an idea in terms of EU's measures etc.?
The timeline of the re-imposition of US sanctions' is 6 August and, if I am not wrong, 4 November, very much aligned with the midterm election calendar, it seems to me. On our side, we are working full speed; as I told you, already today we had a [Foreign Affairs] Council decision on the update of the Blocking Statute. If I am not wrong, less than two weeks ago, the European Parliament gave its consent as well. So, on our side, the steps are being taken. It is not about a future calendar, it is work ongoing already now.
In Vienna, ten days ago, we discussed together, also with Iran, Russia and China, the next steps and the ongoing work that is taking place currently at technical level, especially on the banking sector, the financial channels, the oil sale and the small and medium enterprises sector. How confident I am? I have to tell you it is a difficult exercise, because the weight of the US in the global economy and financial system is obviously relevant. But we are determined to preserve this deal.
We believe it is absolutely in our security interests; we believe it is in the security interest of the region and of the world. I cannot say if our efforts together with others' efforts are going to be enough, but what I can say is that we are doing all we can and we will continue to do all we can to try and prevent this deal from being dismantled, because we believe the consequences of this would be catastrophic for all.
So, I hope we will, together, in a joint effort managed to preserve this deal. I would not tell it is an easy job. It is a complicated exercise, but we are doing it with all our energy, and so far, I see that there is full determination not only from a united European Union, but also from China, the Russian Federation and other international partners that are keeping their economic engagements with Iran, in coordination with us.
Q. Il Primo Ministro [italiano] Giuseppe Conte ha scritto alla Commissione [europea] chiedendo, tra le altre cose, una revisione del mandato della missione Sophia. A suo parere, è probabile che l'Italia riuscirà a mantenere il comando della missione Sophia come ha adesso in caso di revisione del mandato oppure no, visto che il vice-comando è francese?
La revisione del mandato di Operazione Sophia è un processo che era previsto, previsto che iniziasse per dopo l'estate. Io ho chiesto già dalle settimane scorse che venisse accelerato e quindi credo che già nei prossimi giorni gli Stati Membri potranno iniziare a lavorare su questo. Ed è una revisione complessiva del mandato. Approfitto della domanda per dire che io propongo che il mandato sia anche esteso al controllo del traffico di petrolio.
Quindi sarà una discussione più ampia che gli Stati Membri avranno e che sta agli Stati Membri fare, la Commissione in questo non ha voce in capitolo. Però su mia proposta gli Stati Membri discuteranno su questo. Oggi di questo non si è parlato, l'Italia non ha posto questo tema oggi durante il Consiglio Affari Esteri, quindi immagino che lo farà in sede di ambasciatori, di CoPS [Comitato politico e di sicurezza]
Per il momento io posso dire questo: l'Italia ha ospitato il quartier generale operativo dell'Operazione Sophia, che oltretutto ho visitato due settimane fa con la Ministra [della Difesa Elisabetta] Trenta e il Sotto-segretario agli Esteri [Manlio] Di Stefano in occasione del terzo anniversario della nascita dell'Operazione. In quella sede, tutti e tre, io stessa, la Ministra [della Difesa Elisabetta] Trenta e il Sotto-segretario agli Esteri [Manlio] Di Stefano abbiamo espresso il nostro apprezzamento e il nostro pieno sostegno all'operato degli uomini e delle donne in divisa provenienti da quasi tutti gli Stati Membri nel Mediterraneo. I grandi risultati che l'Operazione ha già ottenuto e la necessità anche di rafforzare il mandato su alcuni aspetti perché possa avere ancora più un impatto positivo e perché possa essere più sostenibile nel tempo.
Per il momento, il comando italiano e il fatto che il quartier generale operativo sia a Roma si è mostrato essere ottimo. Non ho mai visto da parte di nessuno Stato Membro nessuna perplessità e/o critica rispetto ad un comando italiano che è stato eccellente. Vorrei ringraziare anzi l'Ammiraglio [Enrico] Credendino per un lavoro fatto che è stato veramente esemplare e non facile. Quindi mi auguro che questo possa continuare ad essere il caso.
Link to the Q&A: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I158628