The EU foreign ministers’ talks on Monday (18 July) focused on the events in Turkey and the attack in Nice. In their discussions with their US counterpart John Kerry, the EU foreign ministers also concentrated on peace in the Middle East and Syria and the conflict in Ukraine.
Upon arriving in Brussels in the morning, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke of "days of horror" in connection with the events in Nice and Turkey. Both developments were discussed by the EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. In their Council conclusions, the EU foreign ministers encouraged the Turkish leadership to build on all political parties’ shared commitment to democracy and the rule of law. While in Brussels, Steinmeier expressed his hope that the events in Turkey would be seen as an opportunity and the common ground reached by parliament and the political parties at the weekend reflected in "appropriate action regarding the judicial follow-up of the events".
Turkey: Death penalty irreconcilable with European principles
Steinmeier stressed that rule-of-law criteria and the principle of proportionality had to be respected. He recalled that the abolition of the death penalty had been "an important step" with regard to the accession negotiations between the EU and Turkey, and further noted that the death penalty would present an obstacle to successfully completing the accession negotiations and was "irreconcilable with European principles".
Improving cooperation after the attack in Nice
The EU foreign ministers also spoke about the attack in Nice with their US counterpart John Kerry, who was in Brussels for the talks. This was the first time a US Secretary of State had ever attended an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
Steinmeier had already underscored in the morning that simply expressing our sympathy to the French foreign minister and the French people would not suffice. “We will have to discuss what appropriate means we can use to protect ourselves from terrorism.” Foreign Minister Steinmeier was referring to closer cooperation between police and intelligence agencies and exchange of information. He also mentioned that precautionary action was needed to deal with the growing threat of terrorism.
Secretary of State John Kerry briefs EU counterparts
The ministers also exchanged views on the situation in the Near and Middle East with the US Secretary of State. Steinmeier spoke of the necessity for the Europeans to attend to the trouble spots in the Middle East even more intensely. In the afternoon, the European ministers met with representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council to discuss Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Syria group of like-minded countries, which includes Germany, will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, in London. That gathering will be followed by two meetings in Washington this week: a donor conference for Iraq and an assembly of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.
Secretary of State Kerry briefed his European counterparts on his talks about Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. Thereafter Steinmeier stressed that the accord between the US and Russia could now lead to a military de-escalation. He hoped that, with the help of UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, progress would be made towards the resumption of the Geneva process.
Another issue discussed at the meeting today was the situation in the UK following the Brexit referendum. Boris Johnson attended the EU Foreign Affairs Council for the first time in his capacity as the new UK Foreign Secretary.