Military and civilian missions and operations

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini upon arrival at the Informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers

Helsinki, 29/08/2019 - 08:56, UNIQUE ID: 190829_4

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Good morning. We will have today an important meeting with the Ministers of Defence of the 28 Member States. We started already yesterday with an experiment that the Finnish Presidency has welcomed: we had a joint dinner not only with our friends and partners from NATO and the United Nations, but also with Members of the Global Tech Panel – a panel composed of personalities from the tech business community that is helping the European Union understand and shape a better policy on global level on how to tackle digital and tech issues. We discussed with the Ministers and with them artificial intelligence, also applied to weapon systems, something where the European Union can play a global role in trying to shape a global consensus on if, how and whether to regulate this complicated security and moral issue.

This morning we will continue with an agenda that is very much focused on the responsibility of the European Union regarding the security challenges we are facing globally. We will start with a discussion on security, defence and climate change, also in view of the work that we are doing in the UN context, the UN Climate Change Summit that is upcoming in New York. We do recognise - probably the European Union has been one of the first to recognise - that climate change poses a security threat. So we will discuss this connection with the Defence Ministers for the first time ever.

Then we will continue with maritime security. The European Union has always been a cooperative and important player in ensuring maritime security. It is a vital interest of the European Union for security and also economic reasons. So we will have a discussion on that with the Ministers. And then the Foreign Ministers will join us and we will have a common discussion on hybrid threats, which is also a very important feature of the Finnish Presidency, for which we are very thankful.

With the Foreign Ministers we will then continue in the course of today with the discussion on the wider Middle East. Let me say in this context that I talked yesterday with the UN Special Envoy for Syria, [Geir] Pedersen, who is briefing the [UN] Security Council and I would expect our Ministers also to focus on developments there and our continued support for a political solution. And tomorrow with the Foreign Ministers we will continue our work.

So it is a full agenda. Difficult times, where I think Member States realise that the only way we can face the challenges we are facing - be they on maritime security, on climate change, on hybrid threats, on artificial intelligence, on the Middle East or other situations, such as the Balkans – is together as Europeans. It is a moment where the rest of the world is expecting the European Union to play the role it can play to reassure that there is a multilateral, cooperative approach to solve the crises around us.

Q and A

What is the role of the EU in the Strait of Hormuz?
We will have a broader discussion on maritime security. You know that the European Union is already playing a very important role to ensure maritime security for instance with our anti-piracy operation off the coast of the Horn of Africa [EUNAVFOR ATALANTA] that has been extremely successful. I had just a couple of weeks ago a discussion with our Asian friends on the role that the European Union can have in contributing to the maritime security in Asia. 

Obviously, we have all the interest, first of all, in ensuring the security, safety and freedom of the maritime routes closer to home, and that includes the Strait of Hormuz, that is clear. But we also have a very clear interest in an approach that helps de-escalation and a cooperative dynamic of the players of the region. I would expect the Foreign Ministers to discuss the broader situation in the wider Middle East in that connection as well. 

How does the US-Iran Summit influence Europe's role in terms of the Iran Nuclear Deal? 
Again, we are always in favour of talks. The more people talk, the more people understand each other, the better - on the basis of clarity and on the basis of respect. Our constant focus - from the European Union, from my personal side, but also from our Member States and that obviously includes France, but also Germany, the UK and other Member States - has always been in these years to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran. And obviously on the basis of the full respect of its provisions. More work can be done. But again, first and foremost, what is existing needs to be preserved and the method of talks is always the one we prefer; it is always the one we encourage; it is always the one to which we invite our partners to take part on, on the basis, as I said, of respect of international rules and norms. 

The JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is a UN Security Council resolution Annex - so it is not an international agreement, it is not a bilateral agreement. It is part of the body of decisions that the UN Security Council has adopted. And we will always advocate in favour of the full respect by all sides of the UN Security Council resolutions and that includes the JCPOA. If, based on that, further work can be done on the basis of mutual understanding and respect, in a co-operative manner, we will always be there to accompany and support this approach. Thank you very much.

What do you think about the German idea for an EU observation mission for the Strait of Hormuz?
I think I will talk about that more later during the day when I will meet you for the press debrief.

Is that one of the last meeting with the British Minister [for Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab]?
It is for sure the first!