Check against delivery!
Today we have with the Ministers different points on the agenda, but I will start with a point that is not on our agenda - even if it is on it for a long time - and is for once good news: the entry into force of the Prespa Agreement. I will congratulate Greece and North Macedonia for a historic achievement and I think everybody will be glad that we can start with something achieved after so much work, thanks to an impressive leadership and the courage and determination of both the leaders and the population of the two countries.
Today on the agenda we will have the Horn of Africa. I will report back from my visit last week, our support to the region and to the new wave of reconciliation and possibly opening up in the Horn of Africa after the Ethiopian-Eritrean developments that the European Union can support together with our constant work on Somalia and with Somalia. And I will also debrief the Ministers on the outcomes of my meetings at the margins of the African Union Summit last weekend.
Then we will have a discussion on Ukraine, particularly important - I just met the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin again - as we come to the fifth anniversary of the events in Maidan. I can share a personal memory, because I was myself in Ukraine more or less this time five years ago. I remember very well the expectations, the hopes of the Ukrainian people and I can say that especially when it comes to the reform agenda and the work on anti-corruption, the country has come a long way thanks to the determination of the Ukrainians and the support of the European Union.
This support is there today and will continue to be there. Especially in a year like this one - an electoral year for Ukraine - it will be crucial to keep attention both from the European Union but also from the Ukrainians on continuing the reform agenda and, obviously, our unwavering support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
I have met with Foreign Minister [of the Russian Federation, Sergey] Lavrov last Friday in Munich and I made our common European Union position about our expectations on that very clear again: the full implementation of the Minsk agreements and definitely some steps - that we have not yet seen - from the Russian Federation on the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait.
We will then move to preparing our Brussels Conference on [Supporting the future of] Syria [and the region]. I will be glad to receive the new Special Envoy of the United Nations for Syria, [Geir] Pedersen, at the end of this week. I have talked already several times with him, we are preparing together the third Brussels Conference that will mobilise humanitarian support for Syrians both inside the country and in the region, but we will also support a political process, a political transition in a moment where, definitely, the situation does not look particularly encouraging. We will use this opportunity to gather again the international support to a UN-led political process for the country.
Last but not least at all, we will have an informal point on Venezuela, where I will update the Ministers on the work we have done with the establishment of the International Contact Group. We had the first meeting in Montevideo some 10 days ago with some of our Member States and our partners from Latin America. I believe it will be a good opportunity for us to, again, consider the steps we can take in the framework of the [International] Contact Group, as European Union, to facilitate a peaceful democratic outcome of the current crisis with new presidential elections.
Q. Will you discuss Donald Trump's call to Europe to take back ISIS' fighters?
We might discuss that but, to my understanding, the call was for Member States to take back nationals. It might be part of the discussion we will have on Syria.
Q. For the European Union-League of Arab States summit in Sharm el-Sheikh - what is it you are looking to discuss, migration?
Absolutely not. First of all, it will be the first Summit between the European Union and the League of Arab States. To me, it is a personal achievement - it has always looked strange that the European Union has summits with Latin America, with Africa, with Asia, and not with the Arab world that is our first neighbour.
We have been working with the Ministers of the Arab League and with the Arab League itself for this Summit for years and the fact that we hold it now in Egypt next weekend, I think, is a success. We will have frank and open discussions not only on migration, definitely not. We will have, first of all, discussions on our economic cooperation in our common region that is the Mediterranean Sea and beyond, that is a troubled region, but also full of opportunities; and on bilateral relations among the two sides of the Mediterranean and in the Middle East.
I think it will be somehow a historic summit. Again, not without difficulties. For sure, we will have plenty of issues on the table, but I think it is what friends, partners, and neighbours have to do: talk about everything very openly, in a friendly manner, looking at areas for cooperation. I expect an interesting summit and I am very glad that this is the first of its kind under our mandate.
Q. Is it possible to impose new sanctions against Russia in the context of Crimea – this year it is five years of annexation?
The European Union has in these five years not only imposed sanctions, but also kept the unity over time on these sanctions that were constantly renewed in view of the fact that we have not seen the implementation of the Minsk agreements and we have not seen developments going well. I have always said from the very beginning that the objective of sanctions is not that they stay forever, but to put pressure in order to overcome the situation. The objective of sanctions is that one day they would be lifted, but we do not see positive steps and this is why the Member States have so far always reiterated their will to keep them.
And, yes, there can be decisions by unanimity on new sanctions coming up in the next couple of weeks related to the latest developments, as there were new sanctions imposed also last year following the developments on the ground. Again, we wish to see positive developments and we would always be ready to reconsider this, but at the moment we see rather the opposite: more negative developments on the ground. And until that will continue to happen the Member States, I assume, will continue to be united in their support for sanctions - the ones existing already and possibly new ones.