At their meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (22 June), the EU Foreign Ministers agreed on a first package of measures to combat human smuggling in the Mediterranean with improved surveillance and assessment as a response to the refugee crisis. The situation in Greece was also high on the agenda of the Foreign Ministers’ talks in light of the meeting of the eurozone finance ministers and the European Council to be held in the evening. Moreover, Foreign Minister Steinmeier met Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the fringes of the meeting.
Enhanced surveillance and assessment in the Mediterranean
Chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, the EU talks focused on joint efforts to end the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. On the basis of proposals by the High Representative and the EU Commission, the Foreign Ministers agreed on a first phase in the fight against human smuggling. The states involved will take joint steps to achieve an improved assessment of the situation of the refugee boats in the Mediterranean. Steinmeier stressed that this was a first step and that future developments in this area would also depend on decisions taken by the UN Security Council.
Humanitarian assistance and stabilising Libya
In the morning, Steinmeier pledged more bilateral assistance for Greece and Turkey in view of the humanitarian dimension of the crisis. Germany will make a further 500,000 euros available to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for each country in order to help the refugees on the ground, he said.
Also on his arrival in Luxembourg, the German Foreign Minister reiterated to the press that, unless the situation in Libya stabilises, no significant progress would be made regarding efforts to stem the migration flows from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Together with the UN Special Representative in Libya, Bernadino de León, Germany recently invited the parties to the conflict to talks in Berlin in order to discuss the establishment of a government of national unity. “We must hope”, Steinmeier continued, that the talks in Berlin were able to make “a small contribution” to speeding up the process in Libya.
Nuclear talks with Iran in a critical phase
On the fringes of the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met his Iranian counterpart Zarif for talks on the E3+3 negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Following their meeting, Steinmeier reiterated his hope that there would be a conclusive result following over ten years of negotiations by the international community. He also hoped “that the Iranian side would stick closely to the key parameters agreed in Lausanne in their negotiation strategy”. A speedy conclusion to the negotiations could send an important signal for the entire Middle East region, he said.
Foreign ministers meeting on Ukraine in Paris
The crisis in Ukraine was also on the agenda of the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg. Following the meeting, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that there had been “another increase in the number of violations of the ceasefire” in the past two weeks. It is therefore important, he continued, to keep a close eye on the situation to ensure that escalations do not result in the military situation getting out of control.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier announced that a foreign ministers meeting in the Normandy format would be held in Paris on Tuesday evening as part of continued efforts to implement the Minsk Protocol. In addition to Laurent Fabius and Steinmeier, he said that this meeting would also be attended by his counterparts from Russia and Ukraine, Sergey Lavrov and Pavlo Klimkin.