My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the bi-annual informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers (known as the Gymnich) on 2-3 September in Bratislava, Slovakia. The Gymnich was hosted by Miroslav Lajcak, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia and was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. Discussion centred on Turkey, implementation of the Minsk agreements, the EU Global Strategy and (with the candidate countries) counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation.
Johannes Hahn (EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations) also attended. Elmar Brok (Chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee) was present for the sessions on 2 September. EU Foreign Ministers met with Omer Qelik (Turkish Minister for EU Affairs) and then with the Foreign Ministers of the candidate countries on the morning of 3 September.
The format of the Gymnich is designed to allow EU Foreign Ministers to engage in informal discussion on a number of issues. In contrast to the Foreign Affairs Council (the next of which will be held on 17 October), Ministers do not take formal decisions or agree conclusions at the Gymnich.
During the first session, EU Foreign Ministers discussed relations with Turkey, noting that channels of communication with Turkey had to remain open, as Turkey was a key regional player and strategic partner for the EU. The Foreign Secretary highlighted the need for balanced dialogue. During the meeting with Turkey’s Minister for EU Affairs (Qelik), Ministers discussed a range of interests shared by the EU and Turkey; and discussed the aftermath of the 15 July attempted coup.
Implementation of the Minsk agreements
The discussion focused on how the EU could support implementation of the Minsk agreements. The security situation in eastern Ukraine continued to present a mixed picture. The Foreign Secretary recalled the importance of an effective political process to achieve improved security (and vice versa), and welcomed the recent ceasefire and prisoner exchanges as helpful steps forward.
European Global Strategy
Ms. Mogherini set out a plan for implementation of the strategy and her aim to agree an action plan and conclusions at the October Foreign Affairs Council.
Counter-terrorism and preventing and countering radicalisation
Ministers welcomed the existing security and counter-terrorism co-operation between the European Union and the Western Balkan candidate countries and agreed that it should be further developed and intensified.