Not long after her recent trip to the Ukrainian-Moldovan border and to the Western Balkans, Foreign Minister Baerbock will travel to Brussels today (21 March) for the sixth meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers in four weeks. Prior to that, she will meet her Belgian counterpart Sophie Wilmès for bilateral talks.
The day will commence with an informal meeting of the 27 EU Foreign Ministers with their counterpart from North Macedonia, Bujar Osmani. As the newest NATO member, North Macedonia has rapidly completed its integration into the Alliance since 2020. The country meets all criteria to open the first EU accession conference and will also assume the Chairmanship of the OSCE next year. The Western Balkan country has embraced all positions and measures of the European Union’s common foreign and security policy in the light of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
The regular agenda in the EU Foreign Council will then address the following issues:
- The continuation of consultations on the situation in Ukraine is the primary focus.
- This will be followed by an informal exchange with Nicu Popescu, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Moldova. As Ukraine’s smallest neighbour and one of the poorest countries in Europe, Moldova is currently shouldering the largest share of refugees from Ukraine per capita – while at the same time being exposed to a growing threat from Russia. Foreign Minister Baerbock travelled to Moldova on 12 March and visited a reception centre for Ukrainian refugees in the country.
- The future direction of the EU’s engagement in Mali and the Sahel will also be a topic of discussion. In assessing the overall European approach on the ground, a particular focus will be on strengthening the police, gendarmerie and judiciary envisaged by the mandate of the military training mission EUTM as well as by the civilian EU mission EUCAP Sahel Mali.
In terms of security policy, “more EU” does not mean “less in the transatlantic alliance”
In the afternoon, the EU Defence Ministers will meet in what is known as the “jumbo format” to adopt the EU’s new security policy framework document, the “Strategic Compass”. The Strategic Compass is intended to realign the EU’s security and defence policy, thus making EU action in this area faster, more effective and easier to plan. Foreign Minister Baerbock stated the following at the event to launch the development of a National Security Strategy in Berlin on 18 March:
Russia’s attack on Ukraine marks a geopolitical watershed with far-reaching effects on European security. The European Union is currently drawing up its most detailed security policy strategy to date. Germany initiated this process some time ago. And this Strategic Compass that is now on the table, and will of course be further amended, must and will take account of the new realities on our continent.
The Foreign Minister stated the following with regard to cooperation between the European Union and NATO:
At the same time, this war shows once again that Europe’s security depends on NATO’s collective defence. The Strategic Compass will therefore serve to align the EU’s security and defence policy so as to complement NATO policy, thus strengthening and enhancing the European pillar of the transatlantic alliance. In terms of security policy, “more EU” does not mean “less in the transatlantic alliance”. Putin’s war of aggression makes it clear to us that we must expand our conception of collective defence. And our allies – this has been very evident – expect us, as the largest European economy, to show leadership in this process.
Protecting humanitarian space also on the agenda
Following the EU Foreign Affairs Council, Foreign Minister Baerbock will speak at the European Humanitarian Forum hosted by the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union. In view of the situation in Ukraine, where hundreds of thousands of people are cut off from aid, the topic of the forum – protecting humanitarian space, i.e. facilitating access to reach people in need while protecting humanitarian workers – could not be more timely.