Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attended the monthly meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday (9 February). The talks focused on the Ukraine crisis and on the current endeavours by Germany and France to de-escalate the conflict. Topics on the agenda also included relations between the EU and Africa, the conflict in Libya and the joint fight against terrorism.
Following yesterday’s announcement that a meeting would take place between the heads of state and government of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in the Belarusian capital Minsk on Wednesday, today’s talks between European Foreign Ministers focused on the Ukraine conflict.
At the end of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Monday (9 February), Foreign Minister Steinmeier said:
There is great hope around the table today, among all 28 members, that progress will be made in the current endeavours to de-escalate the Ukraine conflict. This is why there was widespread support (...) for the efforts that Germany and France are currently undertaking to launch a process to ensure the Minsk Protocol is implemented after all.
Deciding on sanctions in the light of a Minsk meeting
The German Foreign Minister thus described the European Foreign Ministers’ decision that further sanctions against Russia would only enter into force next Monday as “wise”. Should they enter into force, further individuals would be sanctioned. Steinmeier said this approach would make it possible to reassess the developments in light of the results of a Minsk meeting.
However, he also made it clear that much work remained to be done before the meeting.
Two crucial days now lie ahead of us. I hope that the outstanding points can be resolved one by one.
Preparations for the Minsk meeting continue in Berlin
Foreign Minister Steinmeier announced that talks between high-ranking diplomats of the four countries would take place in Berlin that evening. Further preparations for the planned meeting in Minsk are being made at working level in the Federal Foreign Office. Speaking in Brussels on Monday morning, Steinmeier underlined that all those involved were working tirelessly on a promising Minsk meeting.
The endeavours to de-escalate the Ukraine conflict were also the focus of the Munich Security Conference at the weekend (7 – 8 February), at which Germany’s Foreign Minister warned about the consequences of this conflict and said: “If we look at the situation more closely, the crisis in eastern Ukraine could also be a crossroads for Europe, for the security architecture in Europe and for the entire European peace order as it has become established over the course of decades.”
Concern about the situation in Nigeria and Libya
Further topics on the EU Foreign Ministers’ agenda on Monday included discussion on relations between the EU and Africa and the joint fight against terrorism.
In this context, Foreign Minister Steinmeier underlined that morning that he viewed the developments in Nigeria, which is suffering from the “wrongdoings” of the terrorist group Boko Haram, with “the gravest concern”. In light of the latest political decisions, he also called on the government in Abuja to adhere to “the elections and the dates that have now been set for them”. The Foreign Affairs Council adopted conclusions in which it expressed the EU’s disappointment about the postponement of the elections and reaffirmed the EU’s support for free and fair elections everywhere in Africa and particularly in Nigeria.
The Foreign Ministers also discussed the situation in Libya. At the start of the day, Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed his concern in view of the imminent collapse of the North African state, saying that Europe had an urgent interest in preventing this. In the joint adoption, the EU Foreign Ministers expressed their support for the dialogue process facilitated by United Nations Special Representative, Bernardino Léon, whose aims include brokering talks between representatives of all groups to take place this week if possible. Foreign Minister Steinmeier described this as the only way “to prevent the situation in Libya from deteriorating even further”.