My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 18 February. It was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Brussels.
Foreign Ministers welcomed the entry into force of the Prespa agreement which allows for the change of name of North Macedonia. They briefly discussed the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Horn of Africa
The High Representative informed Ministers about her visit to the region the previous week. Foreign Ministers welcomed the historic Ethiopia-Eritrea peace agreement. They discussed how the EU can support this unprecedented opportunity to accelerate reconciliation and economic integration in the horn of Africa. They reaffirmed the EU’s engagement in the region, which still faces important challenges, not least the security situation in Somalia. They also highlighted the need to keep a strong focus on the respect for human rights, as well as on the situation of migrants who embark on perilous journeys, sometimes at a very young age.
The Council had a comprehensive discussion on Ukraine, covering the reform process as well as the security and humanitarian situation, in particular in eastern Ukraine and the sea of Azov. The Council reiterated its full support for Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty and continued condemnation of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia. Foreign Ministers acknowledged the important progress Ukraine has accomplished in key areas over the past five years and highlighted the need to maintain reform momentum.
The Council also expressed the importance of ensuring that the elections in Ukraine are well conducted. They highlighted the importance of ensuring that the OSCE election observation mission can conduct its work and can observe the elections in full accordance with its usual practice. Ministers exchanged views on how the EU can help, following the developments in the Azov sea and Kerch strait region, particularly through strengthened support in the affected areas, including in sectors such as railway and road connections, training, and support for SMEs. They reiterated the EU’s call for all detained Ukrainian seamen to be released immediately as well as for the return of the seized vessels and free passage of all ships through the Kerch straits.
The Council discussed the situation in Syria. Foreign Ministers reiterated the EU’s full and continued support for UN special envoy Geir Pedersen’s efforts and the Geneva UN-led peace process for Syria, which remains key to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, citing a credible political transition in Syria as the only sustainable long-term solution to the conflict. Ministers reiterated that the EU will be ready to assist in the reconstruction of Syria only when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition is firmly under way.
Ministers discussed preparations for the “Brussels III” conference “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”, which will take place on 12 to 14 March, and remains key to continue mobilising the international community behind humanitarian and resilience efforts for the Syrian people and host communities. The High Representative highlighted that the conference would have an even greater focus on the role of civil society and women, and that the issues of accountability and the fight against immunity will feature prominently.
Over lunch, Foreign Ministers discussed the situation in Venezuela, following the first meeting of the international contact group in Montevideo on 7 February and ahead of the technical mission to Caracas led by the EU and Uruguay. The mission will work on assessing the support that can be provided to facilitate a democratic and peaceful outcome to the crisis, and, in particular, the holding of early presidential elections. Foreign ministers also stressed that humanitarian aid should be delivered to the people in need.
The Council agreed a number of measures without discussion:
The Council adopted conclusions on Yemen.
The Council adopted conclusions on climate diplomacy.
The Council adopted conclusions on EU priorities in UN human rights fora in 2019.
The Council renewed for one year the restrictive measures against Zimbabwe. The sanctions consist of an arms embargo as well as a travel ban and an asset freeze to listed individuals and entities.
The Council added one person to the list of persons and entities targeted by the EU restrictive measures against ISIL (Daesh) and al-Qaeda and persons, groups, undertakings and entities associated with them, bringing the total number of persons currently on the list to three.
The Council transposed UN-adopted law amendments, related to two individuals subject to restrictive measures, into EU law, in view of the situation in Afghanistan.
The Council approved and authorised the signing of an agreement on a framework for the participation of Jordan in EU crisis management operations.
The Council adopted the updated the EU’s common military list in line with the provisions of common position 2008/944/CFSP on arms exports.
The Council approved a joint civil-military concept of operations on regionalisation of CSDP action in the Sahel. The process of regionalisation will now enter its second phase.
The Council authorised the Commission to intervene on behalf of the EU before US courts regarding the recognition and enforcement of intra-EU investment arbitration awards.
The Council endorsed a framework for a comprehensive dialogue between the EU and Iran on migration and refugee issues (5983/19).
The Council adopted a decision on the UK opt-out from the recast of the regulation on the creation of an immigration liaison officers network (5979/19).
The Council approved an information note containing recommended EU positions for the ICAO Council meeting on 18 February to 15 March 2019, so that the information note can be used as the basis for the interventions of the representatives of the ICAO Council EU members.
The Council adopted a decision on the position to be taken on behalf of the EU in the ICAO Council, in respect of the adoption of amendment 17 to annex 13.