Foreign Minister Baerbock at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels: Go-ahead for EU mission in the Red Sea and support for Ukraine two years after the start of the war

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the EU Foreign Affairs Council

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the EU Foreign Affairs Council, © Janine Schmitz/photothek.de

19.02.2024 - Article

The situation in the Middle East, support for Ukraine two years after the start of the war, the Sahel – Foreign Minister Baerbock and her EU colleagues face a full agenda for their meeting in Brussels. Read on to find out more about the topics being discussed.

From Munich to Brussels: today’s meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council follows on seamlessly from the talks and discussions at the Munich Security Conference on Friday and Saturday. The dominant issues remain the situation in the Middle East and, shortly before the second anniversary of the Russian attack, further support for Ukraine.

Launch of the EU maritime operation Aspides and the humanitarian situation in Gaza

In EU jargon, it’s called the “decision to launch” – the Foreign Ministers will today formally decide the commencement of the EU maritime operation in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. Its task? To ensure greater security for international shipping along this major artery of world trade. Over the past few weeks, Germany has advocated intensely for the operation under the EU Common Security and Defence Policy. Subject to parliamentary approval, German participation in the operation is planned, in the form of the frigate Hessen.

Beyond the Red Sea, the situation in the Middle East remains strained almost to breaking point, and is a humanitarian disaster, particularly for the people in Gaza. Foreign Minister Baerbock will brief her EU colleagues today on her talks and the outcomes of her most recent trip to Israel. During her trip, she made it clear once more that the Israeli army must ensure better protection for the civilian population, because the people on the ground cannot simply disappear into thin air. Today the issue is not only about ensuring substantially improved humanitarian access to Gaza, but also the violence used by radical settlers in the West Bank – here the Foreign Ministers are discussing EU sanctions. In addition, the EU27 will discuss how to further step up the pressure on the Hamas terrorists, for example by listing them under the EU human rights sanctions regime.

EU support for Ukraine

This coming Saturday (24 February) marks the second anniversary of the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. That Ukraine is still succeeding in withstanding full invasion by Russia is due first and foremost to the courageous Ukrainians fighting for their country, and to the united support of their partners. On Friday, Germany and France again underlined their support for Ukraine with bilateral security pledges, making it clear that Ukraine’s security is also Europe’s security. Today the EU27 will discuss (further) security commitments and talk about how financial and military support for Ukraine can be shaped even more effectively. Negotiations on what is now no less than the 13th package of sanctions against Russia are also on today’s agenda.

Other topics: The Sahel, Belarus

The Sahel region has disappeared from the media spotlight in recent weeks and months, though the situation there remains complex after the various military coups. The Foreign Ministers will discuss the strategic approach to the region and the military governments there in Burkina Faso, Mali and the Niger. For Germany, the crucial thing is to prevent further destabilisation in the region. To this end, enhanced cooperation with the West African coastal states and in North Africa is of particular importance. Looking to the parliamentary and regional elections in Belarus on 25 February, the EU27 will also be discussing the situation of and support for the democratic opposition and civil society there.


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