It is an honour and it has been a pleasure to welcome you for the first time at the Foreign Affairs Council with the 28 Foreign Ministers of our Union, just a few days after our EU-US Leaders’ Summit in Warsaw where we clearly reaffirmed that the transatlantic unity has never been so important and so strong. The EU-US relationship and common work is vital to both of us in addressing all foreign policy and global challenges – actually there is no one single issue related to foreign and security policy on which we are not working closely together on a daily basis.
First of all, we discussed with the ministers the situation in Turkey. You know very well that the European Union was the first to stress the importance, during that tragic night, of upholding the legitimacy of the institutions and we continue to do so, condemning the attempt of a coup. At the same time we call for the full observance of the Turkish constitutional order and we, as European Union, stressed the importance of the rule of law prevailing in the country. We shared consensus on what is happening in the country in these hours. We need to have Turkey respecting democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. We will continue discussing these issues with the ministers now at the beginning of formal session of the Foreign Affairs Council, so expect also Council conclusions on that. But in this respect I have to say that messaging on the same lines from the very beginning by the EU and the US were very important and crucial.
Another issue where we cooperate very closely and tightly is the fight against terrorism. This is even more important after what happened in Nice but also in the United States, in other parts of the world, in Asia or the Middle East. And this is also on the agenda of the meeting of the Global Coalition Against Da’esh this week in Washington. So we will meet again, and over there under your leadership, to strengthen our cooperation on counter-terrorism in different forms.
We obviously took advantage of you coming back from Moscow to have a debrief on your talks on Syria, in particular with the Russian authorities. The European Union and the United States work closely together to try to have talks restarting in Geneva, as the situation on the ground needs to be built with some credibility, starting with the cessation of hostilities that holds. We exchanged views on this issue. The European Union is and continues to be ready to support even more the political transition process.
We also had good exchanges on our common work on Libya that is key for both of us, as well as on the Middle East Peace Process where we value enormously the common work we have done in the framework of the Quartet. It produced a significant report with important recommendations that were endorsed by the 28 EU Foreign Ministers and that we will follow up together very closely, working hand-in-hand in this respect.
We also exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine. Also here the European Union and the United States believe firmly that the full implementation of Minsk agreements is the way ahead and we are working in that direction together.
I would like to close by thanking you, John, for your personal commitment over these years and during these difficult months and weeks to strengthen and to improve every single day the EU-US relationship. I remember very well that at the beginning of the Obama administration, President Obama made a reference to the need to strengthen the friendships that are based on our common values and history and I can say that our friendship has never been so strong and so important.
I would also like to thank you personally, and through you the US administration and President Obama, for the strong and clear message that we always hear from you on the need of a strong and united Europe. Let me say that sometimes, we need our closest friends, our best friends, to remind us of the extraordinary value of the European Union. And we appreciate that, we value that. It is extremely important to remind all Europeans of the responsibilities we hold not only towards our citizens but also towards our partners. So, thank you.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I124657
Q. There were talks in Turkey to reintroduce the death penalty. If that happens, would that end the accession talks with the European Union and would that endanger arrangements that the EU has with Turkey for example in the refugee question?
We are seeing the debate in Turkey. We are seeing also that political forces are starting to react. We mentioned that we need to preserve the legitimacy of the institutions and that includes the Parliament. Let me be very clear on two things. No country can become an EU Member State if it introduces death penalty. This is very clear in our acquis as we call it. The other point I would like to stress, even if this is not the institution that I am entitled to speak for, that Turkey is part and an important member of the Council of Europe and as such is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights that is very clear on death penalty. I hope I have been clear. And let me add something that maybe is useful also to stress here. We have been the first to stress during those difficult hours the need for having the legitimate institutions protected against the attempt of coup. This is no excuse to take the country away from fundamental rights and rule of law. We will be extremely vigilant on that, not for the sake not of the European Union and negotiations, but for the sake of Turkey itself and for the sake of Turkish people.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I124659