The agenda for the consultations between Foreign Minister Maas and his colleagues in Helsinki is long. To begin with, a joint meeting with the EU Defence Ministers at lunchtime today will focus on the issue of hybrid threats. The goal of Heiko Maas is to strengthen the EU’s defence capabilities and to protect its liberal order and democracy from destabilisation threats from outside. A particular priority is developing a critical strategy for tackling online disinformation. The aim is a joint EU approach. Germany also intends to put the issue on the agenda during its EU Council Presidency next year.
Iran and the Western Balkans
Iran is another focus of the talks. Germany supports France’s diplomatic efforts. The common objective is de-escalation as the basis for new talks. However, it is crucial that Iran once again complies with its obligations as set down in the agreement.
The Foreign Ministers of the six Western Balkan states will present their reform steps in Helsinki. Foreign Minister Maas strongly believes that the Western Balkans are an integral part of Europe. It is very much in the interests of Germany and the EU that these countries undergo stable and democratic development. The Foreign Minister therefore supports the forging of closer ties with the EU, which in the cases of North Macedonia and Albania is already quite far advanced.
Tirelessly seeking dialogue
The informal meeting will give Heiko Maas the opportunity to hold numerous one-to-one talks with his opposite numbers. For example, meetings are scheduled with the United Kingdom’s new Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, as well as with the Foreign Ministers of Finland, Greece, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus – “Europe United” in practice. To conclude, a meeting between the EU Foreign Ministers and four human rights defenders will be held. The goal is to improve the protection they receive from the EU and its member states. Germany is working actively to support human rights defenders in many places, especially through its missions abroad.
Every six months, the European country holding the Council Presidency invites the others to the so-called Gymnich meetings. From July 2020, this will be Germany. Finland currently holds the Presidency. Today and tomorrow, the EU Foreign Ministers will engage in frank exchange among themselves and with partners in the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki. The meeting takes its name from Schloss Gymnich near Cologne, where Hans-Dietrich Genscher hosted the first gathering of its kind in 1974. The format is now 45 years old.