Informal exchange among EU counterparts in France
Two weeks after the start of France’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian invited their EU counterparts to Brest in Brittany. The Informal Meeting, also known as the Gymnich meeting, is traditionally held twice a year in the EU member state that holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.
At the start of France’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, Foreign Minister Baerbock assured France that the Federal Government would offer its full support for its six-month Presidency:
France’s Presidency of the Council of the EU is an important opportunity that we want to seize together to strengthen Europe and make it fit for the challenges of tomorrow. As very close friends in the heart of Europe, Germany and France bear a particular responsibility for a united, forward-looking European Union that is capable of taking action.
Our French friends can rely on our support from the first day to the last to set the right course in the EU – for a sustainable economic recovery, in the fight against the climate crisis, in the digital transformation and for a more sovereign Europe in the world.“ - Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on 30 December 2021
Issues on the agenda in Brest: European security policy, the situation between Russia and Ukraine, EU-China relations
The Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Brest will take place directly after the Informal Meeting of EU Defence Ministers. At the beginning, the Foreign and Defence Ministers will jointly discuss the EU’s future fundamental security policy orientation. The Strategic Compass that the EU is currently drawing up is intended to hone the EU’s common perspective of the international security situation and, at the same time, gear Europe’s civilian and military capabilities to global challenges.
The EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting will focus on the security situation in Eastern Europe. Following talks in recent days between the US and Russia, in the OSCE and also in the NATO-Russia Council, the 27 EU member states will exchange views in Brest on the way forward. Foreign Minister Baerbock emphasised the following during her visit to Washington, DC after talks with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken: ”There can be no decision on security in Europe without Europe.“ (5 January 2022)
An exchange on EU-China relations is likewise planned. Against the backdrop of Chinese pressure on Lithuania and the human rights situation in China, as well as China’s growing importance on the international stage, the Foreign Ministers will discuss an appropriate approach to China on the part of the EU, one founded on the principle of solidarity. The Ministers’ informal exchange will also provide an opportunity to discuss other current foreign policy issues, including the situation in Mali.