Spain assumed the Presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 July 2023. Traditionally, the current Presidency, in this case Spain, hosts informal meetings on its territory at Ministerial level that bring together the representatives of the respective portfolios. The Gymnich meeting is the first meeting of EU Foreign Affairs Ministers after their summer recess. In Toledo, in the heart of Spain and one hour south of Madrid, participants will discuss the European Union’s engagement in the Sahel region and the support that is being provided to Ukraine in the face of Russia’s war of aggression. As always, these informal meetings aim to facilitate an open and in-depth exchange between Foreign Ministers, with discussions also focussing on medium and long-term aspects. The meeting will get under way this evening with a working dinner, before tomorrow’s various working sessions deal with the topics in greater depth.
EU support for Ukraine’s fight for peace, freedom and security
In the morning, EU Foreign Affairs Ministers will discuss Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the EU’s further support for people in the country. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will attend a joint working breakfast and will, among other things, report on the current situation in Ukraine. These discussions are also intended to prepare for the UN General Assembly High-Level Week, which will take place in New York in mid-September. Afterwards, EU Foreign Affairs Ministers will hold discussions on long-term support for Ukraine – in the humanitarian, financial and military spheres, but also regarding questions related to the country’s reconstruction.
EU–Sahel relations after the military coup in the Niger
The second focus of the informal meeting’s agenda will be the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the Sahel region, i.e. in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, the Niger, and Chad. Discussions aim to achieve two things: an honest and in-depth stocktaking of the situation in the region, and determining what options the EU has to shape cooperation in a way that promotes, among other things, stability, democracy and the rule of law. The military coup in the Niger has created new challenges for the EU in this regard. The situation in the Sahel has a significant impact on stability throughout northern and central Africa, as well as in the Gulf of Guinea – and thereby indirectly also on European security.
The aim remains for constitutional order to be restored in the Niger. Tomorrow’s exchange in Toledo will be attended by Hassoumi Massoudou, Foreign Minister of the Niger, and Omar Touray, President of the ECOWAS Commission. Currently, the regional organisation of West African states (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) are seeking to act as mediators. Germany and the EU are supporting ECOWAS and the AU in these diplomatic efforts. Last week, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock received her Senegalese counterpart, Aïssata Tall Sall, in Berlin. Their discussions focussed on, among other things, ways to restore democratic and constitutional order in the Niger. The Ministers also discussed cooperation in connection with the withdrawal of MINUSMA troops from Mali.