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 7-8 September in Tallinn, Estonia. The Gymnich was hosted by Sven Mikser, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, and was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. Discussion centred on Democratic People Republic of Korea (DPRK), Middle East Peace Policy (MEPP) and working methods.
Johannes Hahn (EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations) also attended. David McAllister (Chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee) was present for the working dinner and session on the second day. EU Foreign Ministers met Foreign Ministers of the candidate countries on the morning of 8 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 16 October), Ministers do not take formal decisions or agree conclusions at the Gymnich.
Ministers agreed that a two-state solution was the only way forward but the humanitarian situation was severe. Ms. Mogherini explained that the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the EU Commission were reviewing EU financial assistance to look at what would be most effective in advancing the two state solution.
Ms.Mogherini proposed three strands of EU action. First, economic pressure. The EU should support a new UNSCR and adopt new EU sanctions, including looking at EU investment and targeted measures. Second, diplomatic action and insistence on peaceful denuclearisation. Third, protecting the global non-proliferation regime. The EU should lobby countries that weren't fully implementing existing UN sanctions on DPRK and protect the JCPOA.
Countering violent extremism
Ministers welcomed the existing security and counter-terrorism co-operation between the European Union and the EU candidate countries and agreed that it should be further developed and intensified.