European Union External Action

Federica Mogherini remarks at press point following first day at Gymnich meeting

Brussels, 02/09/2016 - 21:56, UNIQUE ID: 160902_4

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the press point after the first day of the Informal Meeting of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Gymnich)

I want to debrief you shortly on the two main points that we had on the agenda today with the EU Foreign Ministers, leaving the third - issue of Turkey - for tomorrow's final press conference I will hold together with the Foreign Minister [of Slovakia, Miroslav Lajčák]. This is simply because I will have a meeting with the EU Minister of Turkey [Ömer Çelik] in a few minutes from now and we will have the meeting with him tomorrow morning at breakfast so it seems only logical to me that we will leave all the comments on that for tomorrow.

On the other two points on the agenda today, which are not less relevant than this one, we first discussed ways in which the European Union can further support the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. We always refer to the absolute need for parties to fully implement the agreements, which we consider as the key reference and the key way of solving the conflict. We see in these hours in the east of Ukraine a ceasefire that is holding and we hope that this can constitute a good basis not only for the restart of the school year, but also for a continuation of the situation in this respect. And we also heard from the French [Jean-Marc Ayrault] and the German [Frank-Walter Steinmeier] Foreign Ministers, to whom I am very grateful, an assessment on the state of play on the Minsk implementation. We discussed together ways in which the European Union can support further, in a more visible but also constant way, both the Normandy format and the different work that is done especially in the framework of the OSCE.

We agreed generally on all sides that Minsk and the Normandy format constitute a framework to deal with the crisis in eastern Ukraine and that obviously we are not content with the present state of implementation of the accords. But we all agreed on the fact that these accords have helped to diffuse a very hot conflict in the past and that they constitute the basis we all support actively for the future. So full support to the Normandy format, full support to the Minsk implementation. As I told you this morning, we discussed concrete ideas on how the European Union can do more in this respect, in particular providing support to holding local elections in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions once the conditions established by the OSCE/ODIHR are met, giving some attention in particular to the intended OSCE police mission. We also discussed the possibility of enhancing our support to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, which we are already doing, but we can do more. And we explored possibilities for increasing our support on the ground: short-term, with actions like financial and technical support to activities to improve the living conditions of the population, especially in the energy sector. 

Today the Vice-President [of the European Commission] Maroš Šefčovič was in Kyiv discussing the energy cooperation. You know that the European Union facilitates the trilateral energy talks with Russia and Ukraine. This is a field where we can definitely do more. But also we discussed the possibility for the European Union to play a leading role in the reconstruction of the country, in particular certain regions after the full implementation of Minsk is reached. Obviously we have also explored possibilities to have more economic projects and more humanitarian projects so as to help in the immediate term. We know very well that these kind of activities, including some technical support to activities like de-mining or supporting local governance, are key because they can be a basis for hope for the local populations and so encouraging the confidence-building measures. 

So, what I can stress tonight is definitely the full, determined support to the Normandy format, to the full implementation of Minsk, and an increased engagement by the European Union in support of the ongoing format and in support of the Minsk agreements.  Obviously – this is something I don't need to mention and is an ongoing effort - we will continue to talk about this publicly and privately both with our Ukrainian friends and Russian counterparts, as the European Union and Member States.

The second point that I would like to shortly update you on is that we discussed with the Foreign Ministers - for the first time after its adoption - the Global Strategy and in particular its implementation. You might remember that at the European Council in June we adopted a Global Strategy for our common foreign and security policy of the European Union. Everyone at that time said "excellent, we will now need to implement it". Our teams were at work during the summer break to provide us a roadmap of ideas on implementation of the Global Strategy that I presented to the Ministers. 

Today there was a general agreement, actually a unanimous agreement, on the fact that not only that the Global Strategy is excellent, but also the plans for implementation are what we need now. So I will provide a clear roadmap by the end of next week on different steps of implementation. I aim at having the first operational results already by Spring next year, when we will have the first report on the implementation of the Strategy. This will include all chapters of our action in the world, meaning in particular the work on conflicts and crises from the very beginning to the very end: prevention, crisis management, crisis solution but also follow-up to crisis and conflicts and building resilience in societies and states around us, in the area around Europe both to the East and to the South but also in faraway places like in Africa and Afghanistan where the European Union is working a lot with our partners to increase the resilience of populations and institutions. 

A very important part of our implementation of the Strategy will deal with the nexus between our internal policies and our external work. This is perfectly understandable when we talk about preventing radicalisation and terrorism or dealing with counterterrorism, or migration. A perfect example of what we intend to do is the work we established on migration where we work at the same time on internal measures but also on external long-term investments in countries of origin and transit and anti-smuggling operation.

This is going to be a comprehensive approach but I guess you might be more interested in one part of what I presented today to the Foreign Ministers, which are the plans for the implementation of the part of the Global Strategy that relate to the European defence and security. I presented them a rather detailed menu of options we have within the existing Treaties of the European Union of all possible actions that the European Union can take to increase the level of European defence and security policies. This includes issues that we will put on the table, also of Defence Ministers obviously and also Heads of State and Government. I don't exclude that at the Bratislava Summit in mid-September the Heads of State and Government might be interested in hearing what we discussed today with the Foreign Ministers when it comes to increasing the Europe of Defence. This includes the definition of our level of ambition, work on capabilities on the military side but also on the civilian side, and this includes also the full use of all our tools already foreseen by the Treaty, including the use of battlegroups for instance or the use of structured cooperation.

I have to say that around the table there was also unanimity on the fact that - including on the issue of defence - the implementation plan I am proposing is going exactly in the direction that we need and I will proceed with this work so that we respond to the needs of our citizens, but also of our partners in the world, that we manage to have a more effective European defence and security. 

There were also ideas that I proposed and that I will also elaborate further of using the European Semester to encourage a higher degree of cooperation in the field of security and defence. The idea on which I will work now is to produce an implementation plan on European defence by the end of this year, in parallel with the work that Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska is doing on the European Defence Action Plan and in parallel with the proposals I will present on the implementation of the Joint Declaration we signed with NATO at the Warsaw Summit in July. This could constitute a package on the European Defence and Security to be ready by the end of this year with again not reflections or visions, but concrete proposals for actions.

I will stop here. It was not so brief and I will take a couple of questions.

Q: Can you just be clear on these concrete measures to help with [the implementation of the] Minsk [agreements]? Do any of them propose any EU boots on the ground to secure in any form the local elections in the east of Ukraine, or will that continue to be done entirely by the OSCE/ODIHR. And secondly, and following on from that, are you or are any of the Ministers that you've been talking to today prepared in the name of advancing Minsk, advancing the peace talks, to accept local elections in Donbas that are not fully free and fully fair?

We talked about the possibility for the European Union to support substantially and actively the holding of local elections in connection with the work done by the OSCE/ODIHR. So the direct answer to your direct question: boots on the ground from the European Union there? No, definitely not. We will give attention to the intention of the OSCE to establish a police mission; this is possible. And we will now obviously enter into talks with the OSCE - with whom by the way we were yesterday in Potsdam - on ways in which we can increase the level of contribution or cooperation between the European Union and the OSCE on how we can help in this respect. But I would like you to focus not only on that, which is very important, but also on the fact that we decided to focus our continued support also on what can happen after the implementation of the Minsk agreements is realised, because we know very well that this falls exactly in the added value of the European Union's tools. When it comes to the economy, when it comes to reconstruction, when it comes to humanitarian, when it comes to interconnections, when it comes to energy, transport - these are all fields where the European Union – and only the European Union – can bring a lot. Our support to Ukraine, as you know, is already immense and will continue, and we can probably use it in a more visible way to encourage political talks. And when it comes to the conditions under which local elections have to be held, we stick to the standards established by the OSCE/ODIHR.


Q. Have you also been discussing sanctions as there will be discussions about sanctions in October.

We discussed sanctions. I have to say there was no majorly different position; there was no major stand to get away from the already-agreed assessment that the lifting of sanctions is going to be linked to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. But the reason why we had this discussion on the Minsk implementation today with the Foreign Ministers is exactly to provide to the Heads of State and Government in October a basis for the assessment of the Minsk implementation, the assessment of the political process, and of the security process. The relevance of having different formations of the Council is that we can actually prepare discussions for our Prime Ministers and Heads of State with a sectorial approach. So for me it was very important to make sure that the Foreign Ministers had this opportunity to feed into the decision that the Heads of State and Government will then need to make in October on the sanctions; not talking only about the sanctions, but also talking about what the sanctions are connected to, which is the situation on the ground and our work to solve the conflict in Ukraine, because at the end of the day the issue is not the sanctions themselves, the issue is the resolution of the conflict, and we need to keep this in mind.


Q. On global strategy and defence, was there any discussion on the idea of having a European army?

When it comes to the Global Strategy, what we discussed today are very concrete steps to increase the capacity of the European Union to be active and operational in the field of defence and security. As you know, we already have many missions and operations but there is much, much more that we can do at the service of peace and security. The European Union has its own way of interpreting security and defence, which is very much a link between the civil and the military aspects, which is unique and very precious at these times, and we discussed these concrete steps. 

We, I think, all agree among the Foreign Ministers that the European Army is not something that is going to happen any time soon, but what can happen very soon, if the Member States are committed, is to advance in the field of European defence with very concrete measures, and this is what I put on the table today. The important thing, I believe, is that all the Ministers, and I repeat all the Ministers, appreciated the plans for implementation and are ready to work constructively, and in a committed way to advance in this respect. So, I see a very clear window of political opportunity from now to next spring to make this file advance. 

There were always talks about the Europe of defence and little deliverables in the past years; I think that now it is the time for real stuff and that is why I put on the table these proposals. And again, this is only the beginning; it could be that you will see - even here in Bratislava - very soon some further elements on this. 

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