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Informal Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers (Gymnich)

Volume 600: debated on Monday 12 October 2015

I attended the informal Foreign Ministers meeting on 4-5 September in Luxembourg.

The informal format of the Gymnich allows EU Foreign Ministers to engage in a free-ranging discussion on a number of issues. In contrast to the formal Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), Ministers do not agree written conclusions. The next FAC is due to be held on 12 October. The Gymnich was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. Discussion centred on the Middle East Peace Process, Russia/Eastern Partnership and the migration crisis. As the discussion on migration overran significantly, Ms Mogherini decided to postpone the final discussion on Iran.

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations also attended. Fernando Gentilini, EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, took part in the discussion on the Middle East Peace Process. Elmar Brok MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs attended the discussion on Russia/Eastern Partnership. Foreign Ministers from EU Candidate Countries joined EU Ministers for a session on migration.

Gymnich discussion

Middle East Peace Process

Ms Mogherini used her opening remarks at the Gymnich to announce a meeting of the Quartet with key Arab countries in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. Her statement can be found at

Ms Mogherini provided a sobering analysis of the situation on the ground including the fact that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remained dire.

I agreed with Ms Mogherini’s priorities for Gaza (access and port) and added power supply as a third priority. I also echoed other speakers in calling for the implementation of existing EU legislation applicable to settlement products.

Russia / Eastern Partners

There was general agreement that Ukraine needed continued EU support as the winter approached both in terms of security and continued reform. There was universal condemnation of Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine. There was however recognition of the constructive role Russia can play in international security issues, as it did in the Iran nuclear talks.

Ms Mogherini recalled that the Eastern Partnership was not just about Ukraine and highlighted the differentiated engagement needed with Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan.


The external aspects of the migration crisis were discussed in detail. The common view among member states was that this was the single biggest challenge facing the Union. There was recognition of the heavy burden currently being carried by some of the candidate countries, in particular Turkey. It was agreed that more work was needed on readmissions and returns. There was broad support for setting up ‘hotspots’, both inside and outside EU territory, to bring together EU institutions involved to deliver an integrated service in managing migrants.

A number of Ministers pointed to the need to address the factors prompting migrants to leave their homes, and increase the incentives for them to stay close to their source countries. We also needed to address the people-smuggling networks. Otherwise, there was a risk that the flow of migrants and refugees into the EU would increase to unmanageable levels. The Valletta Conference in November would provide an opportunity to develop such a strategy with African partners. There was discussion of a second possible international conference focusing on the Eastern Mediterranean/Western Balkans route.

Ms Mogherini concluded that all aspects of a comprehensive migration strategy needed to be pursued.