The EU foreign ministers are gathering today for their first Council meeting of the new year. The agenda continues to be dominated by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine as well as the difficult situation in Gaza and the threat of escalation in the region. Foreign Minister Baerbock will brief her EU colleagues today on her talks and the outcomes of her most recent trip to Israel, the Palestinian territories (the West Bank), Egypt and Lebanon.
More than 100 days after Hamas’ brutal terrorist attacks on Israel, more than 100 people are still being held as hostages in captivity by Hamas. Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas’ ongoing terror. At the same time, Israel must do everything in its power to protect the civilian population and adapt its military approach accordingly. Germany is urgently campaigning for more humanitarian assistance for the civilian population in Gaza to alleviate the immeasurable suffering of the people there. Since 7 October, Germany has tripled its humanitarian assistance to around 211 million euro for the civilian population in the Palestinian territories, primarily in Gaza.
In order to further increase the pressure on Hamas and at the instigation of Germany, the EU adopted a new sanctions instrument in the run-up to the Foreign Affairs Council with the chief aim of drying up Hamas’ cash flows. The mounting regional tensions will also be discussed at today’s Council meeting. Foreign ministers from several countries in the region will participate in the meeting as guests.
The German Government, along with many international partners, has sharply condemned the attacks on civilian trade ships in the Red Sea by the Houthi militia. There is no justification for these attacks on civilian targets – they have to stop. And the EU is prepared to make a contribution to stability in the region. For this reason, the 27 EU member states will today discuss plans for a joint EU naval operation to protect civilian shipping and freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. The goal is to launch the mission as soon as possible.
Germany and the EU will continue to stand alongside Ukraine in 2024
Today’s Foreign Affairs Council will once again focus on Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Once again, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will join the meeting at the beginning via video link. The German Government reaffirms its solidarity with the people in Ukraine. Through assistance with air defence and the supply of generators we are working with allies to provide a winter defence shield for Ukraine, for Russia is specifically attacking the country’s infrastructure in order to weaken Ukraine also in the second winter of the war. We will not relax our support: in 2024, the German Government will make available bilateral military assistance to the tune of more than seven billion euro.
The EU will also continue its support for Ukraine. For Ukraine is also defending the European peaceful order. The consultations in Brussels on how this support – both financial and military – should be allocated this year and for the coming years are currently under way. The European Council will also discuss this issue again on 1 February.